The Astoria City Council on Monday approved the first reading of most of a master plan for the Uniontown neighborhood.
But the council left open the possibility of restricting development directly north of two dead-end streets, potentially limiting options for waterfront lots owned by the Port of Astoria.
Bay Street runs north from Marine Drive and ends at a grassy plot of land owned by the Port near Maritime Memorial Park. Basin Street runs north from Marine Drive and ends in a parking lot east of the West Mooring Basin.
The undeveloped land beyond Bay Street provides businesses like Workers Tavern, Columbia River Coffee Roasters and 3 Cups Coffee House a view of the Columbia River. But the Port leases the land to developer Mark Hollander, who has been trying to build Marriott franchise hotels in Astoria.
Diana Kirk, owner of the Workers Tavern, said she supports most of the Uniontown Reborn project but raised the concern that Hollander’s development could block their views.
“If the Port comes through with some other plan that they want to do to that property, who is going to advocate for us?” Kirk asked the City Council.
The Bridge Vista portion of the Riverfront Vision Plan, meant to maintain views of the bridge and the river, mandates 70-foot view corridors on north-south rights of way between West Marine Drive and the Columbia. But there is nothing mandating a view corridor north of Bay or Basin streets, City Manager Brett Estes said.
Rosemary Johnson, a city planning consultant, raised the possibility of extending the view corridors through properties north of the dead-end streets. She presented two options the City Council could choose from: require the extended view corridors outright, or provide the Port or developers an opportunity to encroach on them in consideration of other design elements.
City Attorney Blair Henningsgaard said the move would essentially condemn the Port’s properties north of the dead-end streets.
“My concern is that you’re affecting two different pieces of property, and there’s been no previous notice,” he said.
Mayor Bruce Jones and City Councilor Tom Brownson supported allowing developers to get City Council approval for exceptions to the view rules. Councilor Jessamyn West and Councilor Joan Herman supported requiring the view corridors outright. Councilor Roger Rocka said he would be comfortable with either option.
The City Council ultimately approved a first reading of the Uniontown Reborn plan, while reopening a public hearing specifically on the dead-end street views for more public testimony at its next meeting.
Port Commissioner Frank Spence, who attended the City Council meeting, tried to speak about the city’s proposal Tuesday at a Port Commission meeting but was told not to by Dirk Rohne, the commission’s president.
Rohne said Wednesday he disallowed Spence’s comments because the city’s proposal was not an agenda item. But he said that Will Isom, the Port’s interim executive director, would speak with Estes about the issue.
Rohne called the city’s proposal to extend view corridors past dead-end streets “NIMBYism on steroids.”
“I do believe it could be a threat to the future prosperity of the Port,” he said.