Yachats: Curbing illegal fireworks, evaluating business license fees, slowing down traffic, marijuana dispensaries, local gas tax, and what’s a year-round creek?
A really full plate of local issues was dished up for the Yachats City Council Wednesday night – quite a different atmosphere from the relatively quiet Thursday afternoon civic fare at The Commons. Several citizens remarked that they would attend more city council meetings if they weren’t held in the middle of the day. Mayor Ron Brean says there is merit in those remarks and hinted an openness to having alternating evening and afternoon council meetings, but still no more council meetings than one a month.
One citizen told the council that out of town visitors are creating what seems to be a trend toward fireworks no longer being limited to New Years and the 4th of July. He said Yachats’ peaceful evening air is becoming increasingly interrupted by loud booms and bright light displays as tourists, in town to have fun, include fireworks in their repertoire – whether they’re staying in a vacation home rental or at one of the town’s hotels. He pointed out that although Yachats limits the sale of fireworks, it doesn’t limit when they can be lit. He called on the council to fix that by passing an addition to the fireworks ordinance – adding that fireworks, except on July 4th and New Year’s Eve, are allowed only when a permit is issued by the city and only for special events. That way, he said, the town could be prepared for loud booms and bright lights. He added that sudden booms and bangs are very startling and cause high stress among the already medically fragile. Mayor Brean said the suggestion will be taken seriously and thoroughly considered by the council.
Another citizen raised the issue of business license fees. He said that the town could more effectively monitor business activities if more than a part-time ordinance compliance officer was making the rounds. Mayor Brean seemed receptive to the idea adding that Yachats probably has the lowest cost business license on the Oregon Coast. The citizen also asked the council to better enforce the speed limit through town – that there are frequent near misses between vehicles and between vehicles and pedestrians. Mayor Brean said controlling speed limits can be tricky, in that ODOT analyses tend to favor higher speed limits – they take the average of all cars going by and multiply it by .85 – which usually produces higher speed limits than the community wants. Brean said he’s going to take County Sheriff Dennis Dotson up on an offer to put a speed detection unit on Highway 101 in the downtown to determine just how bad the speed problem really is. Where it goes from there will at least be based on hard data and not just on impressions, Brean said. But he added that slowing down vehicles at the northern gateway to Yachats is still high on his list.
Another older gentleman approached the council and expressed what has been said countless times during many public meetings – in effect – what part of NO don’t you understand about putting in urban-style sidewalks and streetscapes through the downtown. He said townspeople, who don’t want it, are still being ignored. Mayor Brean took strong exception to the man’s contention. Brean reminded him that the council has held many community meetings about it and just this week launched a new website to display the latest ideas for the downtown and to solicit public opinion through the website. He said anyone can visit www.YachatsMainStreet.com He said that Yachats has been studying the downtown upgrade for a long time and that no final decisions are imminent. Brean has also said in the past that if the citizens of Yachats don’t approve a safer corridor through the downtown, ODOT will put in its own improvements, which many people may not like at all. It is, after all, their highway. It’s not a city street. Brean has set no immediate time limits on the final design other than repeating another observation: “The public discussion on the matter will continue until we get it right.” However construction on the project is expected to begin this fall and be done in stages to avoid peak tourism times of the year. The whole thing should be completed within a year and a half and is funded by a million dollar grant from ODOT.
In May, Yachats voters will be considering whether the town should spend up to $400,000 on property that could provide additional parking to make up for spaces lost due to the sidewalk and streetscape improvements. The funds would come from monies set aside for “tourist-related improvements derived from the town’s hotel-motel-vacation rental tax.
Then the topic of the moment switched to whether Gender Creek at the south end of Yachats is a year-round creek, or just a part-timer. If it’s a part-timer then some folks who want to build a new house at the end of Windy Way can build a larger home. That’s because although Gender Creek flows by the lot, it’s been declared a minor, temporary waterway and so the house can be built closer to its banks.
Not so fast, say their neighbors, who contend Gender Creek is most definitely a year-round creek and so the home must not be built so close to it – in effect causing a size and placement challenge. Although city planner Larry Lewis has determined Gender Creek to be a part-time waterway, the neighbors have convinced at least a couple of city councilors that Lewis is wrong – that data collected on the creek shows that it flows year-round. From that point forward the discussion centered around what agency or department makes a ruling as to what kind of creek a creek is? Mayor Brean said the city planning commissioners have this issue currently before them and should be allowed to come to their own independent recommendation to the city council. The council is usually expected to have the final say. In this case it could get interesting.
The subject of whether Yachats should have an open door policy on medical marijuana dispensaries was broached Wednesday evening by Mayor Brean. He said although Lincoln County and its cities are split on the issue of whether to enact a moratorium on dispensaries until local operational rules are drafted, he said he’s not worried about the issue and his city council appeared to agree with him. He said although some cities enacting moratoriums have determined that the federal government bans the sale of marijuana altogether, Brean observed that the federal government has also backed away from enforcement as long as states permit the sale of the plant and that there are no criminal elements involved. So Yachats appears to be moving ahead with adopting what are called “reasonable” restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries as to where they can be located, how they’re operated and what hours they’re open. The deadline for enacting a local moratorium is May 1st and cannot be extended past May 1st of next year, according to recently enacted state law.
And rounding out the discussions before Yachats City Council Wednesday night, someone brought up the idea that it may be time for Yachats to enact a tax on gasoline. Mayor Brean said that now that the town no longer has an operating gas station within its municipal limits, now might be the time to reconsider such a revenue enhancing move. He said the town is always trying to scrape together enough money for street maintenance so it may be time again to consider a gas tax. Brean told the audience that the council will be taking up the matter again shortly. The town’s only gas station, the 76 at the north end of the downtown, closed some time ago due to the death of its owner.