City repeals river quarter

EO file photoA lot sits empty along at the 600 block of Southwest Court Avenue along the River Parkway on Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Pendleton.

In April 2015, a representative from the Pendleton Development Commission’s advisory committee went before city council and recommended repealing the Pendleton River Quarter Enhancement Plan and starting over.

More than three years later, the council is following through on that suggestion.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to repeal the river quarter plan, which covers the north side of Court Avenue from Southwest First Street to Southwest 10th Street, and are now an ordinance away from reverting the area back to central mixed use.

Passed by the council in 2010 following extended work by a dedicated committee, the river quarter plan created a special zoning overlay to encourage multi-story, multi-use developments by restricting certain types of buildings and setting standards for maximum building height and storefronts.

But the vision of a row of businesses that connected the downtown area to the Round-Up Grounds was never realized.

By 2015, a consensus emerged that although the river quarter plan was ambitious, its requirements and regulations made new development too expensive and unfeasible, even with a $100,000 incentive earmarked for the river quarter’s first development.

The development commission’s advisory committee recommended scrapping the plan entirely and starting over, but the council demurred, arguing that the river quarter could be salvaged if the plan was edited. The plan was eventually sent to the planning commission for revision, but the commission didn’t take up the issue until March of this year.

By then, a group of river quarter business owners were regularly attending public meetings to demand the repeal of the plan because it was preventing new development in the area.

The commission reviewed a proposal from the group of Court Avenue business owners and similar plans from other cities, but the commission ultimately recommended repealing the plan and creating a new ad-hoc committee to create a new one.

With the recommendation in front of the council on Tuesday, the Court business owners encouraged councilors to follow suit.

Chad Miltenberger of Sign Men, a business at 803 S.W. Court Ave., said the area directly across from the river quarter has flourished under less burdensome regulations.

“We as business owners have some really good ideas that we want to turn and burn on and have for quite a while,” he said. “But the zoning has not allowed us to do that.”

Councilor Scott Fairley, a former planning commissioner, said the city needed to provide any group that decided to revisit the river quarter plan the same resources that went into creating it, such as a consultant. Although the council voted to repeal the river quarter plan, it will also have to approve an ordinance converting the land back to central mixed use, a standard zoning designation that allows for commercial or residential developments with the extra requirements of the river quarter.

———

Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.