Strategic plan helps leaders put the pieces in placeWARRENTON - The El Compadre Restaurant has been open for a few months in the downtown area here, bringing a little bit more color and vibrancy to Main Avenue.

Manager Eduardo Bautista said business has been good so far.

"It's been pretty good for a Mexican restaurant," he said.

People in Warrenton have been dropping by and trying the new restaurant out, he said, adding that even during the snowstorm folks still came in for lunch.

"Maybe in the summertime a lot more people will come," he said.

The strategic plan has an approach for growth in areas such as the marinas.

LORI ASSA - The Daily AstorianThe restaurant is one example of changes coming to Warrenton - the fastest-growing city on the North Coast.

Mayor Paul Rodriquez said the entire atmosphere downtown "is starting to pick up a little bit."

Rodriquez, owner of the Iredale Inn on Main Avenue, said he's done some cosmetic changes to his building while the rest of downtown perks up.

"Things are going to change, things are going to get better," he said.

He said the new Mexican restaurant is an indication of that. When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration builds a new office in Warrenton, the feeling of growth is going to be even more present in the community's small core.

"I'm looking forward to anything, anything positive," he said.

The city's population has about doubled in the past 10 years, according to U.S. Census counts. Warrenton also has acres of flat, buildable land.

According to population data by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Portland State University, Warrenton is not one of the largest cities in the state, but it's land area is definitely large for its population size. Warrenton and Beaverton are the same size in terms of square miles, about 17, but Warrenton's population of around 4,500 is only about 5.8 percent of Beaverton's roughly 78,000. While not the largest in the state, Warrenton's land area is the largest on the Oregon coast.

A good deal is wetlands, or near wetlands, and development has been stymied recently as the city worked to create an ordinance to protect wetlands and bring it in compliance with statewide planning goal on wetlands.

The city has recently approved such an ordinance. And while the law still needs to be approved by the state, some resolution has been achieved on the wetlands issue. In the next few years, the city's waste treatment plant also will be brought online, enabling Warrenton to support more development.

But that development should not proceed haphazardly because the city has a long-range strategic plan that should help leaders decide how and where the city grows.

Developed through a lengthy "visioning" process that drew on several community meetings, and with assistance from Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, the plan offers a step by step approach for growth in the several different areas of Warrenton. These areas include the marinas, Hammond, downtown and the U.S. Highway 101 corridor.

One of the main goals of the strategic plan is that "Warrenton will have balanced growth that will maintain its high quality of life, while preserving its natural beauty and providing a healthy local economy," as reads the Warrenton Vision Statement, which serves a foundation for the plan.

Some of the plan's other goals include developing a parking report for downtown, commissioning public art and building a fountain downtown as a central gathering point and turning Harbor Street into "an attractive boulevard with landscaping and well-designed buildings that will create an attractive approach to the community."

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

A truck drives by Warrenton's El Compadre Restaurant on South Main Avenue, which has been open for a few months. Some goals have been met, such as the first objective of the Natural Resources section of the plan that dictates the city should adopt a Goal 5 wetlands plan "to create a fair and predictable regulatory environment." Others have not, such as building a boardwalk with a pedestrian bridge over the Skipanon River.

Lylla Gaebel, a former Warrenton city commissioner who now serves on the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners, worked on the plan during the visioning stage.

She said while it has not been officially adopted, it is still having a positive impact on the city.

"I think it's a good guide for the city of Warrenton to use," she said. "I'd like to see it, at least, form a base model for Warrenton."

Because of many opportunities for public input, Gaebel said it strikes a nice balance for future development.

But, she said, as it is an advisory document it is "never set in stone" and that the city should consider coming back to it and giving it an update.

She said the time appears ripe for such a move because the city appears to has resolved the wetlands issue and has updated its transportation plan.

"Warrenton has a whole lot of potential, and I'd like to see it grow in a positive manner and I think that the visioning was a good groundwork to look back at," she said.

Specifically, she said the coming decisions on the Port of Astoria's golf course near the Skipanon and related development could be an ideal opportunity for leaders to look to the strategic plan.

City Commissioner Jeff Hazen was mayor when the City Commission received the final draft version of the strategic plan.

He said the commission chose not to make an official stand on the plan when a draft version was completed in March as a few new commission members needed to become acquainted with it.

Then deadlines on other major projects, such as the sewage treatment plant, and the departure of the city's manager Scott Derickson got in the way of the commission coming back to review the plan.

But Hazen said it is something that likely will find its place back in the commission's attention, though he couldn't say exactly when.

"Once we get a new city manager on board, we'll give them an opportunity to get up to speed and we'll delve back into it," he said.

Yet even when the commission does decide to delve back into it, Hazen said the plan doesn't require the commission's approval.

"It's a roadmap for down the road to help guide the commission in decision making," he said.

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