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Councilors focus on quantity of trees and plan to maintain features proposed

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO
 - Redevelopment plan will focus on sidewalk improvements, new trees and more.

The City of Prineville's Third Street Redevelopment Plan took another critical step forward last week, winning approval from the city councilors.

City Planning Director Phil Stenbeck presented the plan to the council following two city planning commission hearings where the plan was dissected, discussed and ultimately approved.

"The Downtown Strategic Plan Committee started discussions about what their vision for Third Street would be, and they wanted to craft something to talk to you about and hopefully get you on board," Stenbeck told the council.

The committee is comprised of business owners and community leaders who banded together more than a year ago with the goal of making the downtown area more inviting to visitors and residents. Stenbeck is also a committee member.

"We went through discussions about every single item along Third Street," Stenbeck said, noting that items included streetlights, seating, trash cans and trees. The committee discussed what style of sidewalk would look best as well as what style of trash can is preferred and which trees would fare the best along Third Street.

The plan is an offshoot of a similar 1997 document that dictated plans for downtown Prineville and specifically for Third Street. It was initially moving forward at a slow pace, but recent changes in circumstances gave the plan more traction.

"As we were progressing in this (downtown improvement) discussion, another discussion started with the Oregon Department of Transportation and the City of Prineville about bringing fiber down one side of the street for the (traffic) lighting system," Stenbeck said.

He went on to explain that ODOT would like to enable remote access of the system so that when changes to traffic control are necessary, they can make them from the Bend office and not have to send out an engineer to make the physical adjustments in Prineville.

Since such an effort would require ODOT to remove and replace sidewalk on much of Third Street, city leaders asked the agency if they would be willing to work out a deal where ODOT would replace the sidewalks with ones featuring enhanced designs and colors.

That led to another idea to move all of the overhead wires along Third Street underground during the project while installing new street poles.

"What we found was there wasn't enough money to do both sides (of the street)," Stenbeck said.

However, the shortage wouldn't last. The city later learned that ODOT also intended to upgrade the corners along Third Street to make them all ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

"Then recently the (Oregon) transportation bill passed, providing the City of Prineville several million dollars for road improvements," Stenbeck said. "So the city, right now, is looking at this plan being the guidance for maybe doing the whole Third Street plan."

The Third Street Redevelopment Plan calls for multiple upgrades, including installation of artwork, bicycle racks, trees and bushes, seating and new trash cans. Some sidewalks will be enhanced while others will remain standard.

The proposed light poles will look similar to those that adorn the four corners of the Main Street bridge across Ochoco Creek.

"They have the opportunities for banners and for planters with interior drip systems," Stenbeck said.

City councilors liked what they saw in the document, although they did raise concerns about how the city planners intended to maintain trash cans and whatever trees were planted. Mayor Betty Roppe and Councilor Teresa Rodriguez asked who would water the trees, noting that current trees along Third Street are dying due to lack of regular watering.

"I want to come up with a better maintenance plan," Rodriguez said.

"Once the design of this plan is decided upon, we should have a discussion about maintenance of those trees," Stenbeck said in response.

Roppe went on to suggest Third Street could feature fewer trees than in the past because of the added aesthetics of hanging flower baskets.

"The baskets are going to add a lot of color, so I think we could go with sparser trees, but we do have to keep them alive."

Regarding trash cans, Stenbeck said committee members have worked with Prineville Disposal staff to make the receptacles easier to access and empty.

The council held a public hearing on the plan during last Tuesday's session, but no residents came forward to speak in favor of or against the document. Councilors then voted unanimously to move forward with the plan.

With approval, Stenbeck believes construction work could start as early as next calendar year, barring any unforeseen hurdles.

"We originally had a timeframe with ODOT for this project to be several years out," he said. "With that transportation bill passing, it sped up the schedule."

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