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Gaston welcomes newbies, mulls fire station expansion

Council will consider letting restaurant owners keep living in RV

The Gaston City Council welcomed a new mayor and councilor with a packed agenda Jan. 14, including Tire Man’s possible transition to a church building; fire station expansion; the Screamin’ Chicken’s owners’ search for a home; and a local subdivision.

Tony Hall replaced veteran Rick Lorenz as the city’s new mayor. Hall was elected in November after Lorenz decided not to run for the position again after 12 years in the seat.

The council also swore in Gaston Firefighter Randy Hoodenpyl, a write-in candidate who got enough votes to fill one of two vacant council seats.

Five other residents received two write-in votes each and City Recorder Wenonah Blanchette drew names out of a bag to break the tie. David Gray won the random pick to fill the other seat, but nobody by that name within Gaston’s ZIP code is registered to vote. Neither Gray nor any of the other five write-ins attended the meeting. The position has been declared vacant and the council can now appoint someone who has an interest and qualifies for the position. Interested parties can contact the city at gaston.city@comcast.net, 503-985-3340, or 116 Front St. in Gaston.

Councilors also held three public hearings to accept comments and hear from City Planner Carole Connell regarding Wapato Valley Church plans, an expansion of the fire station, and the second phase of the Gaston Heights subdivision.

Local church may have

found space

Wapato Valley Church leaders are considering buying the lot and building that used to house the Tire Man business at 200 Front St. They’re currently assessing whether they’d be allowed to use the property and whether they can afford it.

Council members decided the church’s use would be appropriate for the space.

Church members currently rent space from the Knights of Pythias. They’d like to use the Tire Man building to expand their Oregon Food Bank distribution (which currently serves 30 families a week), office space, storage and classrooms. The church also offers weekly programs for adults, kids and teens.

Connell determined the property is zoned appropriately for church use. Councilors agreed to waive a few requirements the church couldn’t meet, including one that didn’t apply when the Tire Man building was constructed.

Connell recommended the city require any new property owner to dedicate one foot of their property along Main Street to accommodate any future road improvements, as the street is currently short of the recommended right-of-way width. The property owners won’t have to relinquish the foot until the road widening occurs.

Fire station to grow

The Gaston Rural Fire Protection District applied to add 1,960 square feet to its current building, to be funded by a levy approved by voters last fall. The extension will be used for office space, a day room and sleeping quarters for volunteers and employees.

Councilors approved the district’s request for a conditional use permit.

The fire station sits only 12 feet away from Brown Park. Although city code requires buildings to be set back 20 feet from a neighboring park, this building was constructed in 1987 before the rule existed and Connell recommended the department build its extension in line with the current building, instead of requiring it to sit an additional eight feet away from the park.

In her report, Connell recommended the city request seven feet of property to be dedicated for potential future street improvements to Onion Lane. But after fire department representatives said they needed that extra space for safe parking arrangements, councilors dropped the idea.

The council and city planner recommended the department try to figure out a way to add some parking spaces, although fire officials say that would be difficult.

Restaurant owners

plan for new home

Gaston’s Screamin’ Chicken Diner owner Jeannette Noble asked the council if she could apply for a variance that would temporarily allow her to continue to live in her recreational vehicle next to the diner building.

Gaston’s codes define a dwelling unit as designed “for residential purposes” and states “a trailer or similar recreational vehicle is not a Dwelling Unit.”

Noble said she and her husband moved into their RV because of the long hours they’ve been working for the last year and a half trying to make the diner a success. They’re planning to build an apartment above the restaurant and planning to live in the RV for about another six months, she said.

The council agreed to accept her application for review.

Gaston Heights to add homes

Gaston Heights developer Tim McDonald requested approval for his revised preliminary subdivision plat that will eventually lead to phase two of what could be a 290-home development. Phase one includes lots for eight homes, while phase two would add 34 more. Councilors discussed street names, zoning, public utilities and bike paths.

The project is sited on 6.69 acres of vacant land south and west of Hedin Terrace and 6th Street, and will hold about six or seven houses per acre.

Gaston resident Dale Smith’s home and property abuts the new development. He asked the council defer any decisions as he felt he didn’t have sufficient time to review the addition of 10 more units east of 6th Street that were added to phase two.

“I’m not so much against it, but we need to be made aware of what’s happening,” Smith said. “There’s a breakdown in communication here.”

The city is required to send all residents within 100 feet of the development a notice about public hearings and plan changes. Blanchette said she sent the letter to Smith’s address.

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