WARRENTON — A zone change that would open up property in Warrenton for housing and business development is on hold while city leaders take a closer look at potential traffic impacts.
The City Commission voted Tuesday night to continue a hearing on a city-initiated zone change for about 20 acres of land between U.S. Highway 101 and Spur 104 to Aug. 14. Mayor Henry Balensifer said he wanted more time to read through a revised traffic study that was only distributed to commissioners on Monday.
The zone change and any resulting development will funnel more traffic onto side streets and nearby Ensign Lane, as well as Spur 104, city consultants said.
Traffic is an issue the city is particularly sensitive to right now. Since the new Walmart opened, county officials and Warrenton police say the flood of cars coming and going from the store are creating new traffic flow problems and exacerbating old ones.
Traffic flows impact quality of life, and enhancing quality of life in Warrenton is a commission goal, Commissioner Rick Newton said.
“While that spur road isn’t particularly busy, some of the proposed improvements are going to cost a bit of money,” Balensifer said, “and the question is: Will (the Oregon Department of Transportation) do them? It’s one thing for us to say, ‘Build and go, it’s good go,’ and if ODOT doesn’t follow up on their part, you’ve just created a nightmare. Sure you built it, but it’s not a very great place to live or do business.”
“We’re not in a hurry on this and I’d rather get it right,” Commissioner Mark Baldwin agreed.
The city-initiated zone change applies to a wedge of land between Highway 101 and Spur 104 near the Ocean Crest car dealership. Ken Yuill, one of the property owners and a city planning commissioner, has championed the zone change, which would switch the area from lower density residential zoning to mixed commercial use.
The change would open the land to housing development like row houses and workforce housing and affordable housing units, as well as diversify what kind of businesses could move in, said City Planner Kevin Cronin. A maximum of 400 housing units could be developed there.
“From a planning standpoint, from my professional perspective, it seems like a very strategic zone change,” said Mike Morgan, a planning consultant for the city.
“The surrounding area is rapidly developing, as I don’t have to remind anybody,” he told commissioners. “This is kind of an island of underutilized property.”
The property is unique in Warrenton, he said. It is one of the city’s rare sites with no wetlands except for a small parcel owned by the Department of Transportation. It is out of the tsunami zone and has no geologic hazards.
“If you compare it to the statewide goals and guidelines, it’s really kind of a unique parcel that could satisfy your buildable lands and growth requirements,” Morgan said.