City of Florence open for business

Florence City Hall, 250 Highway 101, has a soft reopening today and a resumption of regular hours. Tours and community interaction will be part of a grand reopening on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m.

City staff, council launch into work plan

Feb. 6, 2019 — As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Florence City Hall and many primary city functions are now back at the newly remodeled 250 Highway 101. Hours will be from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The reopening comes in the middle of a long 10 days for city staff and the Florence City Council, with two consecutive Monday night council meetings, the State of the City Address, a Florence Urban Renewal Agency meeting and moving back into City Hall — all while continuing to provide city services.

“We are rocking and rolling,” said City Recorder Kelli Weese during the Feb. 4 council meeting.

 “It’s your last council meeting that will officially be held here. We are ready for you to move back to City Hall!” City Manager Erin Reynolds said to the councilors. “… We have a soft opening on Wednesday as we’ll be open for business at City Hall. We won’t be giving tours — we’ll be working and providing city services and preparing for the grand reopening, when there will be tours and an opportunity to see the council, do a ribbon cutting and see what City Hall is like now that it has been remodeled and expanded.”

Florence will hold the “grand reopening” of City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m.

“You are all invited and you’ll hear more about that in the coming weeks,” Reynolds added.

At the two city council meetings, councilors approved Resolution No. 2, Series 2019, to accept a 2019-2020 Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation for $346,400 towards a $433,000 project to enhance safe crossings and sidewalks for Siuslaw Elementary School students; Florence Police Department and its first National Night Out last August received the Rookie of the Year Award from the National Association of Town Watch; the mayor appointed community members to city committees and commissions; staff applied for a State Homeland Security Grant; and the council initiated the public hearing process to vacate a public right of way. This last one, approved Monday night, could allow for 16 townhomes to be built on 32nd Street between Oak Street and Highway 101.

Mayor Joe Henry said, “Housing will be one of our No. 1 priorities coming into 2019 and beyond. We did 48 housing units in 2018; I would personally like to see us do a minimum of 100 housing units in 2019. From our recent housing analysis, we need somewhere between 200 and 500 units, so this should get us well on our way toward that goal.

“With that in mind, staff is starting to look for ways to say ‘yes’ so that we can do more creative things with housing.”

Although this is the beginning of a public hearing process, which will have to go through staff and the Planning Commission, the applicant, David Bielenberg, plans to purchase the Pine Street public right of way between 31st and 32nd streets to have three contiguous, buildable lots. Working with developer Mike Johnson, the planned townhome development will feature two-level homes at 1,296 square feet with two bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and a single-car garage in the range of $250,000.

Johnson built a similar development on Jasper Lane, off Ninth Street, in 2006.

He added that once the project is approved, the development is ready to begin.

Reynolds said, “A few comments I’ve heard through time is that ‘staff always says no,’ ‘(land) vacations aren’t allowed,’ that sort of thing. Staff in the Planning Department is there to stand up and protect what is public property, but when proposals are brought to them like this and staff has walked you through the process … it doesn’t end up being that straight-up ‘no.’ It becomes a what makes sense in light of what’s already developed over time.

“… I have to commend staff for taking a look at this and the creativity the builder has brought to this development to see what looks like a broken up chunk of land and making a nice development that could happen there for housing.”

“It’s very positive and a good way to start off the year,” Henry agreed. “Now we just need 84 more (housing units).”

Later in the meeting, Henry thanked staff members for their work on a “critical infrastructure project,” the Highway 101 Sewer Improvements Project, which will extend city services along the west side of Highway 101 from Munsel Lake Road to the current city limits and along the east side of Highway 101 from the 52nd Street sewer pump station to just south of Heceta Beach Road. The bid for $794,845 went to Alex Hodge Construction, Inc., which will also be the contractor for the ReVision Streetscape Project.

The project involved buy-in from property owners within the project limits and work with Oregon Department of Transportation.

“It opens up some opportunities for us to do housing and commercial development on the north end of 101 that we haven’t had in the past,” Henry said. “We have a number of people that are excited about this and are ready to get on the system. This will really help in that area and help us along our goals.”

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