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Newport: Big changes to South 101 from bridge to 40th – Recreation fees rise in January – Taxi regulations re-emerging – Free Thanksgiving dinner at Senior Center

Many traffic/circulation upgrades south of the bridge to 40th envisioned.

Many traffic/circulation upgrades south of the bridge to 40th envisioned.

Newport City Councilors, after much debate, decided to go with a long line of reasoning byu ODOT to accommodate more traffic on south 101 from the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge to around 40th street and do that with several million dollars worth of improvements using mostly federal and state funding.

The council gave ODOT their blessing to begin preliminary improvement design work that involves taking out the signal light at 32nd and moving it down to 35th. The plan also calls for “channelization” of 101 from 32nd down to 35th so there are no left turns allowed going north of south. That’s to keep traffic moving so there’s no cap put on local development that would generate more traffic.

City wants more than just a sliver off the south end of property sandwiched between 101 and Ferry Slip at 35th.

City wants more than just a sliver off the south end of property sandwiched between 101 and Ferry Slip at 35th.

Also part of the plan is closing off 101 at the south end of Ferry Slip. To maintain Ferry Slip access from 101 the city would pave Ash Street south of 40th to make the connection. Access off 101 to Ferry Slip would also be off 101 at the new 35th stop light. Others on bicycles or on foot would have bike lanes and sidewalks added south of 40th down Ash to Ferry Slip and then to destinations north of there.

Criticism of the plan came from a number of area land owners and others like Janet Webster who complained that part of the plan includes the city buying property north of 35th rather than buying just a piece of that 2.3 acre parcel’s southern abutment with 35th for a right of way piece related to the new signal light at 101. Webster said the city’s purchase of the property is ill-advised since the city has no articulated vision for the property adding that the city should not be in the real estate speculation business. Webster said it’s not appropriate that the city would turn around sell the property to a private developer that would be expected to go along with the kind of development the city wants built on the property – again without having the city having a clearly articulated idea of what it wants. Community Development Director Derrick Tokos assured the council that before the city sold the property to anyone, that the goals and expectations of South Beach residents and other stakeholders would be carefully taken into consideration, presented at public hearings and meetings.

City Manager Spencer Nebel, Community Development Director Derrick Tokos and Public Works Director Tim Gross tag-teamed the argument in favor of the city buying the property from the standpoint that drainage, sewer, water, stormwater management and general in and out driveways to that strategic parcel of land requires a great deal of coordination which might not be forthcoming from a private owner/developer. It was argued that a private buyer might just sit on the property while all the improvements around him or her drives up the property’s value without coordinating with the city to make the property owner a more invested contributor to the financing of those very expensive surrounding improvements – in essence getting a free ride from the taxpayers of Newport.

New signal light at 101 and 35th.

New signal light at 101 and 35th.

In the end the council voted to move ahead with buying the property between 101 and Ferry Slip at 35th with an eye to guiding its future use of the property by a more “directed” sale to a developer who would go along with the city’s desire that it be developed in concert with a city vision of what range of uses would be optimal for the overall tax base of South Beach – a no small concern since the city is building debt as it makes many above and below ground improvements in the area that are being financed by the city. That debt is paid off by higher property taxes the city takes in as economic growth emerges – growth actually paying for itself that wouldn’t be there without improvements fronted by the city’s urban renewal district and ODOT.

The council endorsed preliminary engineering for the infrastructure improvements envisioned in the plan. The plan also includes Highway 101 to OMSI access via 35th just south of Toby Murry Motors. No specific completion date for all this has yet been provided.

City Recreation Fees Going Up In January

Last year, the city council put a freeze on user fees for city recreation facilities, including the downtown Recreation Center and the Municipal Pool at the east end of NE 12th. At the time the council was struggling to try to make heavily used city services, if not become self-sufficient, then certainly pay more of their own way. The council said that starting January 1st, Recreation Department user fees will rise 2.6% reflecting the last couple of year’s inflation rate.

Council decides to keep regulating taxis
After some debate the council decided to stay in the taxi regulating business because it’s a critically important service that the public relies on. Although there were arguments for and against stricter rules, like between year round service provided by some but only part-time by others for events like Seafood and Wine, it was reasoned that issues like liability insurance be tightly enforced which can’t be done without some strong regulatory options. But the council cut the taxi operators some slack by allowing taxi companies to obtain their taxi business license through a simpler application and a chat with the city manager rather than a full blown public hearing process in front of the city council. A final version of taxi regulations is expected by early January. A similar general business license law overhaul will also be heard again in early January – in both instances for incoming City Attorney Steve Rich to have a chance to review them.

City Library getting spruced up, largely through grants

Newport Library Director Ted Smith reported to the council that largely through grants from the Friends of the Library, the Ford Family Foundation and Meyer Foundation the library will soon be getting all new carpet, new furniture and some of their existing furniture refinished and a few new computers thrown in. Out of pocket money from the city was minimal. The council thanked Smith for his diligence in seeing that the city library be as light-a-load on the city’s budget as possible.

Free Turkey Dinner

And city councilors and their families were invited to the city senior center’s free Thanksgiving Dinner put on by the center and the Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals group. They took it over from the Abate Group who, after many years, passed the torch to the “young ones.” The dinner is by invitation only aimed at seniors who might not otherwise have a Thanksgiving dinner. dinners will be delivered to shut-in seniors wherever they live in the city. The dinner is scheduled for this Sunday with sittings at 12noon and 2pm.

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