WARRENTON — The Planning Commission rejected an overlay zone for a mix of residential and commercial development along state Highway 104.

The City Commission recently approved a denser blend of commercial and residential development in the wedge of land known as the Spur 104 neighborhood. The area is bounded by the state highway spur and U.S. Highway 101 between Ocean Crest Chevrolet and Home Depot.

Spur 104 conceptual

A conceptual master plan for a neighborhood along state Highway 104 envisions a mix of commercial property, varying densities of housing, public spaces, trails and improved streets.

Split between 19 property owners, it is seen as a prime area for development out of the tsunami inundation zone and near amenities.

Worried about the effects development there could have on surrounding traffic, the City Commission later required a master plan. Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director, presented a proposal for an overlay zone envisioning a mix of commercial property, varying densities of housing, public spaces, trails and improved streets. He proposed prescriptive caps on the number of homes and square footage of commercial space.

During deliberation Thursday, planning commissioners said they understood the merits of an overlay zone, but called it inappropriate for the neighborhood and too restrictive on property rights. Planning Commissioner Christine Bridgens said the commercial mixed-use zone already provides the flexibility of the overlay zone, while being less restrictive.

“I can see this overlay if there was a clean swath of land, but … to get that level of commitment out of all those property owners would be really tough,” Commissioner Ryan Lampi said.

Planning Commissioner Ken Yuill, who owns much of the property in the Spur 104 area, recused himself from the otherwise unanimous vote Thursday. But before the vote, he took the stand as a public commenter to question City Attorney Spencer Parsons about how the overlay zone would interact with the previous zone change by the City Commission to commercial mixed-use. Parsons said an overlay zone provides more flexibility within the city’s development rules.

Astoria has dealt with several neighborhood overlay zones as part of the Riverfront Vision Plan guiding development along the Columbia River. But the concept is newer to Warrenton, which has overlay zones guiding development in areas like flood plains.

Cronin has struggled to make planning commissioners understand the purpose of an overlay zone. He has argued that they encourage collaboration between property owners and a forward-thinking approach to preventing future traffic issues that is cheaper than costly infrastructure improvements. Planning commissioners have argued Cronin’s proposal does nothing to directly address traffic congestion.

At the same meeting, planning commissioners approved recommending housing code amendments to further diversify the city’s housing stock, but rejected Cronin’s recommendation to require accessory dwellings in subdivisions of 20 or more houses.

Commissioners argued the requirement adds to the cost of housing. Cronin argued that the requirement, similar to one passed in Astoria, has had little impact there and would only require the structural framework for a future dwelling unit, without a requirement to build it out into a dwelling.

Commissioners also rejected Cronin’s recommendation to ban T1-11 plywood siding as unsuitable for the local environment. Cronin has argued that builders are already moving away from the siding, which has been a factor in many of the city’s derelict properties.

Commissioner Tommy Smith, owner of Main Street Market, argued that banning a certain siding is like banning plastic bags — the market will eventually decide what’s best.

The City Commission will ultimately decide whether to approve or deny the Spur 104 overlay and housing code amendments. Cronin said he already has an application from developer Stan Johnson to build apartments in the Spur 104 area and another from real estate agent Dorrie Caruana for townhouses.

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

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