Clatsop County expects to adopt a more lenient policy restricting commercial use in rights of way after concerns were raised about banning seasonal flower and produce stands.

The county Board of Commissioners conducted the first reading of an amendment to an ordinance earlier this month to prohibit all commercial use in county rights of way.

Flowers

People were concerned that an ordinance to restrict commercial activity in county rights of way would ban seasonal flower and produce stands.

The county placed a moratorium on permits for businesses operating within rights of way in October after a neighborhood dispute over a firewood stand in Warrenton.

Since then, the county has had four work sessions on how to revise the ordinance, which mainly affects two firewood stands on Ridge Road in Warrenton.

Allen Berry, the operator of the firewood stand at issue for neighbors, and others have claimed he was being personally targeted by the county, and that county officials close to the issue made the neighborhood dispute a county issue.

“When we started this ordinance process, there were really three goals,” County Manager Don Bohn said during a work session on Wednesday. “One was to protect public safety and community livability. The second was to limit and manage county liability. The third was to provide a clear direction for permitting and enforcement purposes.”

Bohn said that after discussion and feedback, the county is proposing to require permits for any right of way incursion. Commercial activity will be prohibited, but seasonal flower and produce stands will be allowed.

Other permitted activities may also be allowed, Bohn said. The county’s Public Works Department will look at all the requests and see how they fit into the ordinance.

“I just want to say ‘thank you very much’ to you and our staff for addressing this issue, because we are a rural community and a lot of people identify with these stands and enjoy seeing them and enjoy frequenting them,” Commissioner Courtney Bangs said. “I appreciate the fact that we have done such an astronomical effort to make sure to include our rural community’s hobby stands.”

Bohn said, “I will say that I have talked more about the right of way in the last two weeks than I have in the previous 29 years. So that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.”

Mark Kujala, the chairman of the Board of Commissioners, also thanked staff for coming up with a policy that’s “fair and equitable and addresses the concerns.

“We were all favorable to allowing flower stands and stands that can be operating without a safety concern,” he said. “I think a lot of the feedback that we’ve received — in fact, a lot of it — is from folks that live on state highways and state highways are not subject to this at all.”

The board will hold a second public hearing on the amended ordinance on April 14.

Following the first public hearing, Gary Smith, who has run one of the firewood stands on Ridge Road for about two years, told The Astorian he did not feel like county commissioners listened to his concerns.

He believes the problem with Berry’s wood stand involving neighbors should have been handled as an isolated issue. Now, he believes he is the only one who is really affected.

“I have my business license, I have my permit, I did everything that was asked of me, but the people down the street from me — all the issues were down there,” Smith told the board during a meeting in February. “I had nothing to do with them. I have no part in what they were doing. I just got wrapped up in what they were doing.

“I’m not quite sure why (the county) shut me down, too, because I did nothing wrong. I mean, I was permitted, licensed and everything else. And I’ve done a lot of work out there. It has taken me a lot of time that I put in out there, and I’m just hoping that I can continue doing what I’m doing.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.