WARRENTON — A 19-acre wedge of residential properties between U.S. Highway 101 and Spur 104 in Warrenton is now open for commercial development.

The City Commission approved a zone change for the area in a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. The change will allow for the development of high-density housing, such as apartments, as well as office and business projects.

Mayor Henry Balensifer voted against the change because of concerns about what development could mean for traffic. The properties are near the city’s busy shopping area of Ensign Lane that includes Home Depot and other big box stores where residents already complain about traffic congestion.

Balensifer was also concerned about a lack of planning for what kind of development and design would be encouraged. He hoped, at least, that the commission would ask property owners to create some kind of master plan to guide future development decisions. He wondered if the reclassification of the existing residential zoning to commercial mixed use was too broad.

Official discussion of the Spur 104 zone change began in earnest last summer. But the move was delayed, first to amend an initial traffic impact study to incorporate concerns from the Oregon Department of Transportation, and then tabled until the city’s new Transportation System Plan was adopted.

Proponents of the zone change, including Planning Commissioner Ken Yuill, who estimates he owns 20 percent of the property in the area, said the commission needed to move forward. Businesses that had been interested in building at Spur 104 last summer moved on after the issue was tabled, Yuill said.

Many of the lots available for new development are smaller and will not be available to big box stores that could draw more traffic, Yuill added. The applications that do come in will all likely have to go through a public vetting process in front of the Planning Commission, he said.

But for Balensifer, who wants the commission to consider ways to encourage livability in Warrenton, “just because the carrot is dangled doesn’t mean we have to bite it.”

Katie Frankowicz is a reporter for The Daily Astorian. Contact her at 971-704-1723 or kfrankowicz@dailyastorian.com.

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