WARRENTON — The Kujala family, owners of a large swath of land on the eastern end of the Skipanon River just north of state Highway 104, has started filling in uplands and hopes to build higher-density housing.
But city officials, more cognizant of the impacts of development on the surrounding community, want a master plan similar to the recently approved Chelsea Gardens neighborhood.
The Kujala property is zoned for an intermediate density of single-family homes, municipal offices, schools, parks, libraries and places of worship. The family has started filling in 2 acres worth of uplands at the site and applied to revise the zoning to high-density residential like the land owned by Stan Johnson, who is developing a 16-unit apartment complex along Highway 104.
“If they’re going to do a zone change, they need to show us how it’s going to be phased, either through a planned unit development or how they are going to do a master plan to show how it’s going to be developed over time,” said Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director. “So that’s going to be where the streets are going to go, where the open space and parks are going to be, trails, the different types of land uses, whether it’s different types of housing, commercial.”
The area has become an emergent location for housing and commercial development. To the south of the Kujala property, Johnson was approved to build Eagle’s Landing. Directly east, developer Jason Palmberg has proposed a 30-acre campground and RV park he said could share access and utilities with the Kujala property. Farther east, the City Commission approved Chelsea Gardens, a high-density mix of commercial and residential development between Ocean Crest Chevrolet and Home Depot.
The Kujala property, platted with streets and various-sized lots but pockmarked by wetlands, spans from Highway 104 north to nearly Seventh Street, abutted to the north and east by the Palmberg property. Seventh Street runs from Galena Avenue, where the Kujalas own property and their company Skipanon Brand Seafood, west to the Eighth Street Dam, which is in the process of being abandoned as the Skipanon Water Control District dissolves .
The city, water district and the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce had approached a $1.2 million agreement several years ago to replace the graveled, earthen dam with a single-lane bridge. Bonneville Power Administration would have funded the replacement as part of its obligation to improve fish passage along the lower Columbia River. Both the Kujalas and Palmbergs argued for a wider, two-lane bridge over the river to aid in the growth of the city.
The agreement dissolved over differences about whether the dam is still useful for flood control.
The Kujalas, who declined to comment, have so far been noncommittal about what type of development could come in on their property, Cronin said. A large swath has already been cleared of brush, filled and graded.
“I think what they’re going to do is wait until the last minute based on what the market is telling them what’s the most profitable and what’s going to sell,” Cronin said.