SEASIDE - The Seaside City Council voted 4 to 2 Monday to approve ordinance amendments that will make it easier for the Oregon Department of Transportation U.S. Highway 101 Pacific Way-Dooley Bridge project to proceed into the design phase.

The amendments will be made to the Seaside Comprehensive Plan and the Seaside Zoning Ordinance. The changes do not compel the city to do the highway project, according to Seaside Planning Director Kevin Cupples. However, they will allow for the development of a couplet and bridge approach upgrades if the project gets to the construction phase. The amendments also will facilitate ODOT's Feasibility Environmental Impact Study for the project.

The council approved a Memorandum of Understanding with ODOT at its Aug. 25 meeting. The document memorializes the understanding and commitments of the city and ODOT as they work together to design the project.

Councilors Diana Schafer and Don McKay remained critical of the project and opposed the ordinance amendments. Mayor Don Larson and Councilors Stubby Lyons, Tim Tolan and Larry Haller voted to approve the amendments. Councilor Don Johnson was absent.

McKay read a letter from Clatsop County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Helen Westbrook about the project's proposed redesign of the Highway 101 and Lewis and Clark Road intersection.

The letter stated that the redesign would not allow traffic on Lewis and Clark Road to turn south onto Highway 101. The traffic would have to use Wahanna Road and either 12th Avenue, Broadway Drive or Avenue S to re-enter the highway.

Westbrook asked the city to "exercise the provisions in the city's Memorandum of Understanding with ODOT to help remedy this unresolved design issue."

McKay made a motion to delay approval on the two ordinances, but the motion was not seconded and it died.

Mayor Larson acknowledged that the issue was difficult and said that he had fought the intersection design a year ago. Lyons said that the county has had ample time to address their concerns.

The Board of Commissioners sent ODOT a letter requesting reconsideration of the proposed intersection design. Nathan Potter, ODOT Northwest Area consultant project manager, said that they have several meetings set up with the commissioners. The commissioners are in the process of adopting a county transportation plan, which includes the Pacific Way-Dooley Bridge project.

"They've told us that they have a concern about the intersection, but that they don't want it to delay the project," he said. "We can design a definite solution and we're also looking at some alternate solutions along Wahanna Road that could be done at a later date."

Branching out

Also, the council heard a first and second reading of an ordinance amendment for dealing with tree and bush branches. The amendment will raise the lowest height a branch may hang within a public right-of-way to 13 and one-half feet. This will bring the ordinance into compliance with state fire codes, Seaside Public Works Director Chris Davies said.

City Attorney Dan Van Thiel cautioned the council to consider that people get very emotional over how trees are trimmed and some residents may use the ordinance to spite neighbors.

Davies said that the public works department does not measure each tree and bush, but rather responds to issues on a case-by-case basis. There have never been any problems in the past and every effort will be made to work with property owners.

The council also approved an ordinance amendment that will authorize Seaside Police Chief Ken Almberg to use Oregon State's Department of Administrative Services, rather than a city of Seaside public sale, to auction unclaimed property.

In other business, the city will sell a small, 11,539 square-feet strip of land four miles east of the U.S. Highway 26 and 101 junction to the Oregon Department of Transportation for $300. ODOT will need the additional property for right-of-way access once a nearby culvert project is completed.

Also, the council approved a resolution to support the Seaside Library Siting Committee's campaign to upgrade the library. It also approved a resolution to withdraw from involvement with North Coast Senior Services, to allow the organization to merge with Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Service Agency.

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