The president of the local longshore union has appealed the Astoria Planning Commission’s decision to allow an education and child care center on Port of Astoria property near docks and seafood processing operations.
In a letter to The Daily Astorian, Chris Connaway, of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 50, said he and others who have spoken out against the conditional use permit for Shooting Stars Child Development Center feel there are “significant liability and insurance issues.”
The Planning Commission in July approved Shooting Stars’ permit to set up shop at a building on Gateway Avenue. The Port Commission also signed off on a lease for the move. The Oregon State Police formerly occupied the building. Bornstein Seafoods is across the street, and log trucks use the road to access log handling operations at Piers 1 and 3.
“The newly elected (Port of Astoria) commission didn’t even give us the courtesy of a discussion,” Connaway wrote in his letter. “After we presented, there was an immediate motion to approve pending conditional use approval from the city planning department, as if the Port had no skin in the game, despite the facts it’s their building, on their property.
“Never once were the words safety, liability, tsunami inundation zone or insurance spoken. Just immediate action. This was a mockery of the entire process.”
The Astoria City Council will hold a public hearing on Sept. 5 to consider his appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision.
In his appeal, Connaway cites sections of the city’s development code and development standards, arguing that Shooting Stars is not an appropriate use for the area. He also says he was not given adequate public notice.
Planning commissioners had been split on the decision, with four voting in favor of approving the permit, and three voting against it. Those who voted against the permit said they believed Shooting Stars was an important organization, but that the building on Gateway Avenue was not the right location. Planning Commission President David Pearson, however, said the Port identified that building as a good candidate for “adaptive reuse,” and the street is already home to variety of businesses.
Connaway argued that an industrial area with heavy traffic is not suitable for a facility like Shooting Stars.
“This is an extremely bad idea,” he told the Planning Commission in July. “This is an industrial area. It’s not a playground.”
Pearson and the other commissioners who approved the permit concluded that Shooting Stars would be an “unusual use” given the area, but believed Denise Giliga, the center’s owner, and city staff had presented a case for how it could work.
Giliga said relocating to the Gateway building would allow the center to expand its services and increase the number of slots available for new students. The center was based at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Grand Avenue. The church decided not to renew the center’s lease and Giliga said there are multiple infrastructure issues at that location.
The Port has had difficulty finding people interested in leasing the building since the Oregon State Police left. Giliga and her staff said they planned to spend the month of August setting up the space and hoped to open in September.