The Astoria Planning Commission this week unanimously forwarded a more liberal set of development rules in the downtown core to the City Council for approval.

The Urban Core includes downtown and waterfront properties between Second and 16th streets. It is the last of four sections of the city’s Riverfront Vision Plan guiding development along the Columbia River. The City Council has approved new development rules for Bridge Vista in Uniontown, the Civic Greenway east of downtown and the Neighborhood Greenway in Alderbrook.

While the other areas of the Riverfront Vision Plan were more restricted, planning commissioners leaned toward denser, more allowable development downtown.

Urban core

The Astoria Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a broader set of development rules for the downtown waterfront.

Astoria has experienced a backlash against large chain hotels since the approval by the City Council of a four-story Fairfield Inn and Suites, a Marriott franchise, near the former Ship Inn restaurant.

The proposed rules limit development over piling fields and existing piers to the height of the riverbank to protect views, while allowing redevelopment of existing waterfront buildings.

Planning commissioners kept a prohibition on new hotels over the water, but reached a consensus to allow new hotels over water as a conditional use in existing structures. They also agreed property owners should be allowed to expand those buildings within the city’s height and mass restrictions.

They proposed building height restrictions of 28 feet over water in nonlimitation zones. Buildings on the river could rise to 35 feet for water-dependent uses, or with narrower widths higher up.

The proposed zone changes in the downtown core included the conversion of nearly 14 acres of tourist-oriented zones to more general commercial. The city has argued the tourism-promoting zones were instituted during recessionary times and are no longer necessary.

Steve Fick, owner of Fishhawk Fisheries at the foot of Fourth Street, continued his argument Tuesday for more flexibility on his property. A brick building Fick is turning into a distillery at the foot of the pier would be rezoned into general commercial, not allowing him to process seafood there. Planning commissioners made a last-minute recommendation to allow fish processing on land north of the Astoria Riverfront Trolley tracks.

They decided to allow medical and professional offices in new and old buildings over water after receiving a letter from the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association calling for flexibility. An argument is that such uses would bring in higher-paying jobs downtown.

The proposed development rules would preserve an 80-foot-wide swath of land along the Astoria Riverwalk and a 70-foot view corridor along streets. Planning commissioners agreed on a 35-foot building height limit on land within 100 feet of the Riverwalk corridor and 45 feet farther inland, essentially nixing a recommendation for affordable housing in four-story buildings.

The City Council will take up the Planning Commission’s recommendations in January.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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