The Newport City Council Tuesday night was braced for some fireworks from angry neighbors in the Wilder neighborhood in South Beach. But while there were quite a few neighbors in the audience, none got up to complain that college students and homeless families might become part of their neighborhood.
It could be that many of their fears had been mostly taken care of. For one, both projects would be somewhat removed from the center of the Wilder development and secondly both “sub-communities” would be well managed.
They learned that OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center student apartments would be populated with a good mix of students – many of them older graduate students who would be very busy with their college work. And the apartments might not always be at their capacity since many students would be studying at Hatfield Marine Science Center for only a short time.
As for the Samaritan House affordable housing complex, all families will be carefully screened before given the keys to their apartment. Families living there must agree that their homes will not be a source of drug or alcohol abuse. Also that they will continue to undergo extensive life and job skills training, including family financial management.
The council approved the land use changes for both projects but they will both have to come back before the council for final design and review before they get their building permits.
The council also learned that the Lincoln County Land Trust, in conjunction with Portland’s Proud Ground, an affordable housing non-profit, would like the council to offer them a couple of surplus city owned residentially zoned properties for construction of affordable housing. The council will discuss the specifics of all that at a future council meeting.
The council also learned that ODOT will be finally building a wayside facility at Lighthouse and Highway 101 at the north end of town. ODOT will be building showers and restrooms for swimmers and surfers – even a lookout tower for them to look down onto the beach below to see what the surf and swimming conditions are like. The city will also be building an upgraded stairway down from the parking lot to a spot above high tide to for easier access to the beach. The project looks to be completed sometime within the next few months according to Public Works Director Tim Gross.
The council also learned that monitorable real-time computerized water meter technology will be introduced soon in Newport. They will be gradually phased in over a number of years. When the whole town is metered, residents and business owners will be able to monitor, using their home computers or cellphones, their water use and detect leaks in their system if their water flow is more than what they know they’re using. Full installation is expected within three years.
The city council also decided to go after the old Salvation Army site, south across Angle Street, as a new parking lot for city hall, the new aquatic center and as a site for the weekly Newport Farmer’s Market and other special events. The council decided that they would hold a public hearing on whether to buy the parking lot on September 19th at city hall during the next city council meeting.
And city Public Works Director Tim Gross told the council that his department continues to battle broken sewer and water lines in town. Gross said that old sewer/storm water cross connections have been fixed but that there still exists a lot of bad pipes in the ground, both public and private that will take time to repair. The council and Gross decried the fact that a state health department announcement went out about high bacteria levels along Nye Beach just before the high tourist Labor Day weekend. The council learned that a series of mis-connects between health authorities and the city left city hall and public works in the dark while the water-access ban was broadcasted statewide and in the local Newport news media. At least one local bed and breakfast operator complained to the city council about it.