GEARHART - The Gearhart City Council met briefly for the first time in 2004 Wednesday.

The council met Carol Richardson, the new Oregon Department of Transportation Northwest Area Manager. She has been in the position for about three months.

Councilor Chuck Schluter asked Richardson if she was "up to speed" on Gearhart's position on the U.S. Highway 101 Pacific Way to Dooley Bridge widening project. "Yes, I am pretty much up to speed," she said. At August's City Council meeting, councilors unanimously voted not to support the project.

Seaside City Council entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with ODOT, which created a project solution team. This team includes city staff and ODOT officials who will work with consultants through a design phase.

Mayor Kent Smith said that it was Gearhart's desire that a design be created that satisfied councilors before entering into an MOU with ODOT.

"But we can't get money for the design phase until we go forward with an MOU," Richardson said. "There are things we're required to do by Oregon law, but there may be another way out of the box."

Schluter also asked Richardson about uncoupling the Gearhart and Seaside portions of the project. ODOT officials have maintained to this point that both Seaside and Gearhart need to sign onto the project for it to move on.

"I think we can develop the projects independently, but it is complicated," Richardson said. "Because federal money is involved, we had to look at the project for the whole corridor."

Smith told Richardson that the ball is in ODOT's court and Richardson indicated that she would like to meet with councilors soon in a smaller, less-formal setting to begin to resolve issues.

In other business, councilors:

• Appointed Larry Well to the Neacoxie Watershed Commission.

• Approved a resolution dissolving the city's part in North Coast Senior Services. The organization will now be under the direction and administration of Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services.

• Referred a complaint about an ordinance violation to the planning commission. The ordinance, which was signed into effect Jan. 2, 2003, added soda fountain as an outright use in the neighborhood commercial zone. The amendment text states that a soda fountain is "a business that is operated out of a fixed building limited to the preparation and sale of sodas, sundaes and ice cream products, including cookies, brownies, waffle cones and nonalcoholic beverages on a to-go basis." It was brought to City Administrator Dennis McNally's attention that Pop's Sweet Shop Ice Cream has been selling cinnamon buns, a product not specifically listed in the text wording. Schluter indicated that since cookies and brownies were specifically allowed, it would probably be the council's interpretation to allow baking cinnamon buns. The council referred the issue to the planning commission who will review the ordinance with a public hearing at a future meeting.

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