Turn lane for new store gobbles up parking for nearby businessesThe city of Astoria will purchase the old Safeway property between Duane and Exchange streets and 11th and 12th streets for $850,000, but the Astoria American Legion building is not part of the deal. Mayor Willis Van Dusen made the announcement at Monday's Astoria City Council meeting.

"I'm very proud of the fact city staff did an excellent job on this. There was no property tax dollars, we got a $750,000 grant from the state of Oregon and we sold some parcels of (city-owned) property around the new Safeway store to come up with the money," Van Dusen said. The city received $214,000 for the parcels it sold, and will net $105,000 when the sale closes next month.

With 12 Legion members in the audience, spokesman Jim Ruzik told the City Council Wednesday's grand opening of the new Safeway will be a "black day for the Legion," which he said had been a neighbor of Safeway for 50 years. Safeway had always allowed Legion members to park in its lot, and Ruzik said in the past, the Legion asked members to purchase a bag of groceries from Safeway and put in on the seat of their car when parking there.

"Now we're a stepchild of the city," Ruzik said, expressing concern about the fact that the Legion owns just its building and none of the surrounding property, other than a lifetime easement that extends from the building's back door to Duane Street. "What's going to happen for parking?" Ruzik asked.

Legion member Floyd Holcom also addressed the council, asking for the city to continue meetings with the Legion it can be part of the city's plans for the property, which is to be temporarily converted to a city-run parking lot, with some free parking and some spaces rented by the week and month. The city had been meeting with the Legion for months, hoping to include the organization's building in the Safeway property purchase, but could not reach an agreement.

Loss of parkingLegionnaires weren't the only ones expressing concerns to the City Council about Safeway's move to the east side of town. In emotional testimony, Mitch Fery told the council a center turning lane on Lief Erickson Drive to accommodate deliveries to Astoria's new Safeway has gobbled up on-street parking for the dog grooming business he and his wife, Connie, own at 3162 Marine Drive, one block west of the new store. Fery was invited to address the council after Loran Mathews, whose district includes the new Safeway, brought the issue to the council's attention at the beginning of the meeting.

Fery said tenants of the ESD building and owners of the Highway 76 Gas Station located in the same block on either side of his business didn't know about the parking change until the day before it happened.

"The city should not put the burden of big business on little business," Fery said, pointing out that there's been two-hour parking on Marine Drive between 31st and 32nd streets since before he opened his business there in 1994. Now, as a result of the new turning lane, there's just one 15-minute loading zone spot.

"In my opinion, Safeway is the cause of all this," Fery said. "We've been here longer. I rely on that parking for my business." Fery said the city wanted to put the loading zone sign in the middle of his driveway and ODOT wanted to eliminate his driveway. He said "hundreds" of his customers are willing to sign a petition to restore the original parking configuration.

Connie Fery told the Council the parking change has devalued her property, and asked why the ODOT doesn't "take a chunk out of the Hauke property" across the street from Astoria Grooming, instead eliminating parking on the north side of the street.

City Manager Dan Bartlett said the city would talk to ODOT about right-of-way acquisition on the south side of Marine Drive. But he said the state highway engineer has the final say and there are "not a lot of options." Mitch Mitchum, the city's public works director, said the city generally regulates parking on Marine Drive and Lief Erickson Drive, even though it's U.S. Highway 30, but under new access management rules, ODOT can supercede the city's wishes.

Councilor Blair Henningsgaard called the situation a real problem, and said it was the first time the parking change had come before the Council. Mayor Van Dusen apologized to the Ferys, saying the city should have provided more notice about the parking change and said it won't happen again.

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