Owner tells city lost parking will hurt businessAn Oregon Department of Transportation striping crew moved in at noon Tuesday to squeeze a center turn lane onto Marine Drive between 31st and 32nd Street.

It was less than 24 hours after Mitch and Connie Fery had appeared before the Astoria City Council Monday night, insisting that the two-hour parking spaces along that block are critical to their dog grooming business and the other businesses on the block.

"They're here right now," Mitch Fery said in a frantic phone call to The Daily Astorian. "ODOT just came down and pulled out the sign. Now they're striping."

Fery said the ODOT striping team coordinator told him there's not enough room for a parking space in front of Astoria Grooming, one block west of the new Safeway, and there never will be enough room.

Instead there's now a bike lane that's too narrow to allow cars to park - even if parking were permitted.

A decision to put in a center turn lane was reached last summer, according to Mike Spaeth, district manager for ODOT, who said he had worked with city officials on how best to accommodate traffic needs generated by the new store. Spaeth said it was ODOT's task to work out the traffic system and the city's task to educate the business community about its impact.

"I assumed all that was taken care of," Spaeth said Tuesday afternoon, "but today I'm finding out that property owners are not happy."

He said parking signs were still up last week, so ODOT did just half the striping then and returned Tuesday to do the rest.

Spaeth said he had been at the site last week with Mitch Mitchum, Astoria's public works director, and it was Spaeth's understanding that all of the affected businesses had alternate parking in back.

However, the Ferys can get to the back of their building only by driving across property that belongs to the Education Service District building next door. And there's no way to provide access from the back for handicapped and elderly customers, who bring their pets to the Ferys.

"I'm getting some mixed signals here," said Spaeth, who hopes to straighten out any misunderstandings at a meeting next week with Mitchum. Spaeth said it's important for ODOT, the city and the business owner to find a resolution to the parking problem.

Mitchum was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment. But Dan Bartlett, Astoria's city manager, said he told Fery the city would look into the situation and try to figure out a way to provide some parking.

But Bartlett said no one's ever promised Fery he would have all the parking he had before.

"We're balancing his needs with the general public and safety needs," Bartlett said. "Nothing has been ruled out."

Bartlett said options include the possibility of widening Marine Drive by acquiring some land on the south side of the road, across from Astoria Grooming. There are no buildings on that side of Marine Drive, which includes the property Skip Hauke had planned to develop before earth movement began on the hillside above. However, widening the south side would be a more expensive project, Bartlett said.

Mitch Fery, however, remains adamant. "I want my parking back, the whole block does."