Pendleton downtown plan passed to city council

<p>Two cyclists cross Main Street at Byers Avenue on Thursday. The Pendleton Planning Commission unanimously approved a downtown plan for city council consideration.</p>

After months of planning, debate and committees, the latest vision for downtown Pendleton’s future is ready for city council consideration.

The planning commission unanimously approved the downtown plan Thursday, nearly six months after first reviewing it in April. Commissioners sidelined the most contentious item, which calls for converting Main Street to three lanes and widening sidewalks, as an “Option B”?with no specific time frame.

The plan, a modified version of one created by consultants Siegel Planning Services, lays out several options for making downtown more pleasant and lively.

Besides calling for beautification and pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, the plan also encourages business growth and promotes tourism.

“This is a nice document,” Commissioner Chuck Wood said.

He thanked two committees, composed of downtown merchants and community members, which had presented modifications over the summer.

If city council approves this version of the plan, an appointed steering committee of 12 community members and business owners would oversee its implementation and report back to the city.

The steering committee’s real work will be to find funding for the various projects, including bicycle boulevards and riverfront improvements. Commissioner Maureen McCormmach said in order to apply for federal grants, a city often needs to show it already has projects described.

Most community members who testified at the hearing opposed the plan, but their criticism was milder than the strenuous disapproval many voiced earlier in the year. Some merchants present said they were happy with the changes and ready to move forward, especially since the Main Street alterations are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“People have accrued a much higher degree of comfort with this,”?Commissioner Bob Ehmann said.

Businessman Allan Feves, an early opponent of the original plan, said he was comfortable with the three-lane configuration staying in the plan as an option. He also suggested the steering committee approve items by majority, rather than a unanimous vote as originally written.

Commissioners agreed, and modified the steering committee to require a majority of nine votes out of 12.

After the decision, Feves said he’d like everyone to be positive.

“I’m real happy,” he said. “Now we can concentrate on workable options.”

Mike Navratil said he saw no problems justifying alterations to Main Street lanes or loss of parking.

“There’s no pedestrian body count piling up,” he said.

He hopes now, with the option on the back burner, that council will focus on other areas of the plan.

“It seems like a good compromise,” he said.

The downtown plan could appear on the council agenda as soon as Nov. 18, city planner Evan MacKenzie said.

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