New earth movement has been detected in the Uppertown area plagued by slides last year. But the amount of movement was extremely small and no immediate cause for concern, the Astoria City Council heard Monday.

Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum said readings taken Friday from sensors placed in and around the slide area between 31st and 33rd streets detected increased amounts of movement over the past month. But geological experts retained by the city say the change is expected given the return of the rain, he said.

"With the wet weather, they're not surprised to see the movement increase," he said.

Sensors in boreholes located on Grand Avenue, at First Lutheran Church and on 33rd Street show movement between one-tenth and one-fifth of an inch over the past 28 days. A sensor near the retaining wall at the site of the original excavation showed the first sign of movement in a year, but the amount was only 0.01 inch, equal to the thickness of two pieces of paper, Mitchum said.

Excavation of the base of the hillside next to Lief Erikson Drive for a commercial development planned by Skip Hauke is blamed for the sliding late last year that damaged homes, streets, sidewalks and utility lines above the project area. Tons of rock placed in the excavated area helped stop the movement.

Updated data from the sensors is posted on the city's Web site, www.astoria.or.us

In other business the council:

• Heard a report from Oregon Department of Transportation Regional Manager Carole Richardson about local projects in the agency's draft four-year State Transportation Improvement Program.

One of the bigger projects in the Astoria area is a $6 million renovation of the Youngs Bay Bridge planned for 2006 that includes upgrades to the electrical and mechanical systems, repair of girders, and installation of wider sidewalks for bicycles and pedestrians. The local ODOT office is seeking $1 million for the sidewalk portion of the project, and the agency is working with the city public works department to come up with a workable plan, Richardson said.

• Directed staff to develop a process for handling claims against the city under Ballot Measure 37, the voter-approved initiative requiring property owners to be compensated for land-use regulations that harm the value of their land.

City Attorney Hal Snow said some cities and counties have already put in place procedures to charge hefty fees or require appraisals for any Measure 37 claims. But the council opposed the appraisal option and agreed only to a fixed handling fee of about $250.

The council scheduled a special meeting for 1 p.m. Dec. 1 - the day before the measure becomes law - to officially implement the claims procedure.

"I did not support (Measure 37), but it did pass, and we should not give the impression that we and the city are trying to fight this," Mayor Willis Van Dusen said.

City Manager Dan Bartlett said the city has received no inquiries yet about possible claims.

• Asked city staff to investigate possible courses of action against Harry and Mary Louise Flavel, who recently repurchased two downtown buildings that had been sold in a court-ordered auction early this year.

The commercial buildings in the 900 block of Commercial Street were included in a status report on dilapidated buildings whose owners the city Community Development Department has been urging renovate or demolish.

"History has shown that the Flavels will not do anything until their feet are in the fire," Councilor Blair Henningsgaard said.

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