A Pilot Rock property owner who struggled for years to rezone her site prevailed Tuesday night at City Hall, but not before the discussion grew heated.

JoDean Bronson owns the old motel at 326 N.E. Fourth St., Pilot Rock. The site was zoned commercial while the surrounding properties were residential. Bronson bought the motel in September 2003, she said, but she never operated it as a motel. Instead, the place is home for her and her family, she told the council.

But rather than residential rates for city services, she pays commercial rates, she said, and has for a decade. So earlier this year she again applied to have the city to rezone the property. She said she went this route before and failed.

Pilot Rock City Council considered the rezoning again at its meeting Tuesday night. City recorder Teri Porter said city officials had some concerns about Bronson’s property and wanted her to remove the old motel sign, stop storing old vehicles there, clean up the site and not allow access through the old motel doors.

Bronson argued the sign was an antique, she uses the rooms as storage and the three vehicles run but have expired tags. Moreover the vehicles “are in my back yard and they’re staying there,” she said. “Why’s that matter to anybody?”

She also swore at the council and complained about the city’s lack of ability.

“I’ve been trying to get something through you people’s heads for 10 years,” she said.

Mayor Virginia Carnes pounded the gavel and regained some decorum. Bronson said she didn’t want to sue the city, but her attorney told her she should. She also said her attorney “told her to shut up.”

She and the council haggled about what code issues she would need to fulfill and how. Carnes asked her if three months would be enough to accomplish the tasks, including capping sewer lines to old motel rooms, which would decrease her rates. Bronson said three months would probably do it.

The council voted 4-0 to rezone the property as residential. Bronson apologized for her outburst and left.

The council also approved reducing the size of the city’s planning commission from seven members to as few as four. The city has not operated with a planning commission for several years because of a lack of volunteers, Porter said, so requiring fewer members might make it easier to resume the commission.

Police Chief Darren Richman will receive $5,419.80 in compensation for 162 vacation and 18 administrative leave hours he has not been able to use. The council approved the request because the city police force is not at full staff and the police department budget has the funds. The council also agreed to have the city pay the chief for the 10 hours he accrues each month until the department is back to three full-time officers.

The council opted to wait to consider annexing Pat Doherty’s property on Northwest Cedar Street into the city limits. Doherty has some more paperwork to complete and said he is considering swapping property with another landowner. Councilors said they would rather wait on the annexation until Doherty takes those actions.

And the council voted in Raymond Doherty as its newest member. He replaces Craig Porter, who moved outside the city limits. He’s the brother of Pat Doherty, and Teri Porter and others said Raymond would have to abstain from voting on issues regarding his brother’s property. Raymond Doherty will take his oath of office at the council’s Dec. 3 meeting.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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