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Local News: Progress on Astoria waterfront hotel near Buoy Beer

Progress on new hotel on the Astoria waterfront near Buoy Beer

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By Joanne Rideout

The Astoria City Council Monday night approved requests from hotelier David Kroening of Bowline Investors, LLC. Bowline wants to make changes to the dock and property at the bottom of 8th and 9th streets, where those streets cross the trolley tracks and meet the river. They also want to develop the land next to the hotel structure abutting the trolley line. The hotel will be located in an existing building situated on docks and pilings that extend out over the Columbia. Kroening is the CEO and General Manager of Buoy Beer, located on the waterfront at 8th street next door to the hotel project.

With just one item on the regular agenda for the evening, the council meeting was short, ending in about a half hour. But the agreement was far from simple, and showed a bit of Astoria’s industrial history that is making way for present day development.

As the council considered Bowline’s request, City Manager Brett Estes told councilors that the city had an opportunity to create a template for future similar transactions between the city and potential developers of property north of the trolley tracks. Jurisdiction of the property historically has been complex. Estes said the city needs to spell out responsibilities clearly in such projects now, for areas between the rail lines and the water, a relic of the days when canneries lined the shore. Here’s Brett Estes:

Estes: “You’re going to be seeing more of these coming to the council in the coming months, as our public works staff works with other property owners along these street ends, to be able to negotiate the licenses to occupy.”

He said for the street end areas, the city issues a license to occupy. But with regard to property that abuts the trolley line, other right of way issues come into play. Again, Brett Estes.

Estes: “That is property which is owned by the city of Astoria, for now. There is the ability that other railbanking agreements, should the rail return, then the land would revert back to the railway for rail purposes.”

What Estes is referring to is the 1996 railbanking agreement the city made with the State of Oregon and Burlington Northern Railroad. The city took possession then of the railroad and right-of-way from Tongue Point through the Astoria waterfront. The idea was to allow the city local use of the line, but to preserve it for future use, should actual rail service ever be needed again in Astoria.

While the possibility of the line being reclaimed may be remote, agreements with property owners who seek to develop lands near the trolley tracks must include a provision that should the rail line be reclaimed, those improvements would have to be removed.

After a bit of explanation, and a few questions, the council approved two license to occupy agreements for the street end areas at 8th and 9th streets, and also approved a lease agreement for the property between those two streets that adjoins the trolley tracks. All approvals were unanimous. Buoy Beer has removed an existing structure on one of the street ends, increasing the view corridor.