A proposed traffic flow and parking plan for the center of Yachats was roundly chastised during a town hall meeting Wednesday evening at the Yachats Commons. Many residents and business owners told Mayor Ron Brean and architect and former city councilor Dave Rieseck that ODOT’s plans to move traffic through Yachats more efficiently and safely will destroy its legendary charm and leave broken hearts and destroyed businesses in its wake. A few others called for calm and patience as the town works its way through ODOT’s plans for wide sidewalks, more organized parking and other upgrades throughout the town center.
Rieseck said ODOT has had plans for years to improve traffic circulation and pedestrian safety and referred to tentative drawings of how those improvements would be made; mostly wide sidewalks on both sides of Highway 101, the re-organization of parking for businesses and more organized access to 101 – no more backing out onto an interstate highway. But one resident said she is highly suspicious about ODOT’s insistence that there be no more backing out of parking spots. “Depoe Bay’s main commercial area is nothing but ‘backing out’ angle parking. How come they can do it and we can’t? It would destroy our businesses!”
Many in the crowd said ODOT is trying to make Yachats look like a city. They maintained that Yachats is a place where people come from all over the world to escape the urban jungle and find relief in the charm of a rural coastal hamlet. They said ODOT seems intent on destroying that charm by inserting urban features, with lots of concrete, into the heart of the community all in the interest of better traffic flow. One resident rose to say “Ghandi said that there is more to life than increasing it’s speed.”
Business owners said they rely on impulse parking. When tourists see something they want, like an ice cream cone or a sandwich, they immediately turn off the road and into a parking spot. But with ODOT’s plan, they’d have to find a place to turn around, back-track and then search for a parking space. But by having to do all that, it would kill the urge for that cone or sandwich and so they would just keep heading down the highway. One business owner added that if ODOT tried to construct the improvements during the summer, ODOT’s typical construction season, it would be the end of a number of businesses in Yachats as traffic would be funneled straight through town like a gun barrel between long lines of orange cones.
Rieseck reminded the crowd that ODOT owns Highway 101, not Yachats. He said if Yachats doesn’t actively participate in the planning process, ODOT could simply proceed on its own. One resident asked how much time does the town have to work things out – “a year” was the reply from Mayor Brean. One resident got up and said “We should not let fear control our thinking. Let’s be patient and resolve to work things out – improve Yachats with the money being offered by ODOT. We can do this.”
Mayor Brean said there are more discussion sessions coming up, including whether Yachats might be able to buy property to create more convenient parking. He invited all to attend those meetings and help find a solution that benefits the town. He said dates for those public meetings will be widely circulated and promoted.