Local News: Astoria City Council Discusses Code Changes

The Astoria City Council met Tuesday night, and among the first items they discussed were possible changes to city code. Joanne Rideout reports.  [Time: 2:52]


The Astoria City Council met Tuesday night in its first meeting since the appointment of new council Jessamyn Grace West, which gave the council a complete slate of members. Councilors took turns giving reports at the beginning of the meeting. Councilor Roger Rocka wasted no time addressing what he sees as a high priority for Astoria residents: regulations regarding waterfront development

Roger Rocka:

“People have approached me to talk about one thing: the planned hotel at the foot of 2nd street. They don’t understand why the council approved it. When I talk with them about zoning, and outright permitted uses and how the council has limited authority in such cases, and has to adhere to the existing code, they all ask the same thing: when are you gonna fix the code? So as we move forward next months with our work sessions and goal setting, and consider what we can actually do something about, I hope we can come together about this as a priority, as THE priority.”

Mayor Bruce Jones asked City Manager Brett Estes to explain the process for changing city code. Estes said it’s a lengthy process. Deciding what wording should replace existing code can take months. Then the city must follow a legal path to approval.

Brett Estes:

“After the desired language is developed, we then have a requirement where we have to provide notice to the Department of Land Conservation and Development, DLCD, it’s a state agency, the state urban planning agency, before we have a public hearing at the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission holds their hearings and then they would provide a recommendation to City Council.”

The council would then hold public hearings on the changes. Estes estimated that in a best case scenario that could take a minimum of six months. Then state law requires special notice of ballot changes called a “Ballot 56 Measure” notice.

Brett Estes:

“Whenever there is a code amendment which could potentially affect property value, we are required to provide notice to those individuals. So we’re looking at providing a public hearing notice to all Astoria residents. And that is a very extensive and expensive endeavor.”

Estes said the city is currently working on several code amendments, related to other issues besides waterfront development, and that it would be strategic to aggregate those amendments together with any changes proposed by the new council. This will lower costs for the city, by presenting all proposed changes for public comment at the same time, during the amendment process. Judging by estimates discussed during the meeting, if the council tackles waterfront code amendments now, residents could expect to weigh in on proposed changes by the end of the year, or beyond.