WARRENTON — The city erred in not requiring Clatsop County to build sidewalks along nearly 950 feet of 19th Street from Ensign Lane to the site of the new county jail.
But while Planning Commissioner Christine Bridgens wanted a redo of the county’s application over the error, city staff, the city attorney and other commissioners chalked the mistake up to a learning moment.
The Planning Commission in January approved the county’s design of the new jail with a multiuse path covered in reflective green paint to delineate it from the roadway. Bridgens, the lone vote against the application, had pushed for a sidewalk, arguing a multiuse path would be unsafe.
Stephen Fulton, who works on land development and wetland mitigation issues for Warrenton Fiber, had also urged the commission in December to require a sidewalk in front of the jail and near the company’s housing development.
“We were not given accurate or complete information, and so staff made a mistake,” Bridgens said Thursday, periodically holding up city code documents showing the sidewalk requirement. “And I think you need to acknowledge that, so that we can get this done right.”
Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director, admitted the city erred on the sidewalk requirement. But he put the onus on the county as the applicant to follow the relevant code.
“The only mistake that I made was not having the county do what they were supposed to do back in 2018,” Cronin said. “That’s the context of this conversation. They were responsible for doing the road improvement back in 2018.”
Terry Hendryx, the county’s assistant public works director, said in January that Cronin — who was absent from last month’s meeting — had approved the county’s construction of bike lanes on both sides of the road in lieu of sidewalks because of wetland mitigation issues. Hendryx said Cronin suggested in August calling the bike lanes a multiuse pathway so the development of the jail would not require sidewalks.
Cronin said Thursday he was OK with the concept of the multiuse path, but that the city should have asked for a full design.
The Planning Commission approved the 16-unit Eagle’s Landing apartment complex along state Highway 104 on the eastern bank of the Skipanon River on Thursday, but required sidewalks, over the objections of the developers.
Spencer Parsons, the city’s attorney, said that while the city can learn from the mistake with the county jail, it can’t go back unless the approval was appealed by the applicant or by someone who gave testimony. Bridgens had attempted to appeal the decision, but was not allowed because she voted on the issue.
Paul Mitchell, the chairman of the Planning Commission, eventually stepped in to stop Bridgens’ questioning, saying he felt bad about the mistake but that the city couldn’t just go back on its decision.
“It may be substandard, which is your opinion, but it’s nothing at this point,” he said. “And again, we’re only talking 948 feet.”
The city will have a second shot to require sidewalks along the entirety of 19th Street as the county develops the area, Mitchell said.
After the meeting, Cronin extolled the virtues of the multiuse path, including the bright green paint used extensively for bike lanes in Portland.
“The multiuse path is going to be a much better solution than the sidewalk, because it’s going to provide space for both pedestrians and bikes,” he said.