More sparks flew at the Yachats City Council Thursday – some flew politely, others not so much. Tempers flared and there were momentary flights of swearing but everybody got through it okay as more anger was vented at plans to give Yachats a more pedestrian, bicycle and even automobile friendly street scape through the downtown core.
Resident Mary Deriberprey was clearly disillusioned with the plan that the city and ODOT are trying to work out. She claimed that by her informal surveys, most of the town doesn’t like the plan – they want no part of it. She said she and many others feel betrayed by what appears to be an urban look in their quaint village by the sea. She said many residents, including herself, feel like they’re not being heard.
Others like Joni Bicksler read from a prepared set of notes and she really let ’em have it. She said the city council seems to be teamed up with ODOT to do real damage to the town. She says ODOT doesn’t control Highway 101, the city does. She repeated the often cited example of downtown Waldport being economically devastated by their “101 re-do.” Bicksler said the town should be spending its money on fixing storm drains and other infrastructure instead of causing problems with the downtown. She called on the council to put the whole project up for a vote. She demanded that it go to a vote. Some in the audience clapped their support for the idea.
Mayor Brean said that the town is going to continue going slow with the project. He said he believes that most of the town as well as the business community is favorably disposed toward it – that the new plan will get more tourists out of their cars and enjoy walking around Yachats, rather than just stopping in to buy something, like an ice cream cone, and then getting right back into their car and driving off. Brean said the plan is to boost Yachats’ economy – not hurt it. Also to make traffic more manageable for drivers as well as for bicyclists and pedestrians. Brean says change is sometimes hard but it’s necessary. He said survey after survey of similar improvements in other communities revealed that their economies improved because of the shopper friendly atmosphere. As for parking, he said there should be plenty in easily accessible areas all within a short stroll.
Brean also reiterated that the city doesn’t own 101, ODOT does. And, he said, “ODOT will someday do to the rest of Yachats as we’ve seen at the north end of town; sidewalks and not a lot more.” Brean said “We can either do the project that best fits Yachats, or we can sit back and wait for ODOT to do what they’ll do without our input.” Brean told the audience that ODOT is willing to work with the town but, the circulation, pedestrian and bicycling arrangement through town must be upgraded. Changes are coming, one way or another. The town can help determine what those changes are or the changes will come without input from the community.
Brean said there is no rush to approve any particular plan or part of a plan – but it is going to take everyone sitting down and talking about it.