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Bridgeport mulls dual-use zoning

— A public hearing next week will address a proposed zoning change that would allow residences to share building space with retail businesses.

The planning commission’s hearing comes on the heels of another hearing at the May 22 City Council meeting.

No public comment was made for or against the issue, Mayor Marilynn Lynn said.

The mixed-use proposal came to the council, she said, because some property owners who sought conditional use permits to convert old business buildings to residential also want to add retail spaces. For instance, an old motel that will become a multi-family housing unit could add a juice bar or café. Someone else wants to use the space above a restaurant for apartments, which is how the space was used in the past, she said.

The council voted in February to allow existing structures to be converted to residences in the central business and tourist commercial zoning districts.

However, “we have nothing in our code that addresses mixed use,” Lynn said. She said the ordinance would only allow “appropriate” businesses, though those guidelines are yet to be determined.

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. June 5 at City Hall, 1206 Columbia Ave. Following that, the commission could make a recommendation to the council, which would then be considered at a future meeting.

Council member Neil Jacobson said he is reserving judgment until he has all the details.

“I need to have the planning commission’s input,” he said. The council has also asked for the attorney to come to another meeting and address some concerns.

One of those concerns, he said, is making sure the mixed-use zoning would fit with the city’s other ordinances.

“If you’re going to do it, you want to do it right the first time,” he said. “You don’t want to have conflicts in your code books. It shouldn’t be ambiguous.

“If we take those run-down buildings and turn them into residences, then we won’t have businesses as the town supposedly grows. So it’s kind of a catch-22 there.”

On the other hand, Lynn hopes allowing mixed-use will draw in more business.

“We think it’s going to be a really useful tool to revitalize our downtown area,” she said.

Another possible benefit of allowing mixed-use designations, Lynn said, would be to have “more eyes and ears and people aware of what’s going on.

“Our planner was able to give us some valuable information that there is less crime in areas that allow mixed use,” she said.

The city has been plagued in the past by home burglaries and thefts, to the point that an effort has been made to organize a neighborhood watch group.

Another public hearing at the same May 22 meeting addressed a potential annexation. The only public comment came from residents wanting to know why the city was considering annexation, Lynn said.

The petition, filed March 13 by Edward Conklin, requests that three parcels be incorporated into the city limits. The parcels are grouped together and are located between city property and the wastewater treatment plant, bordered by Third Street, Railroad Avenue, Columbia Avenue and the Columbia River.

Lynn said the request was made because the wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing a $5 million upgrade, and annexation would bring the entire footprint of the treatment plant within city limits.

The Douglas County boundary line adjustment board will be asked to weigh in on the issue. They have 45 days to review it once the city provides all the necessary information.

Lynn estimated it could be at least 60 days before a decision is made.

“Right now the property is on the county tax rolls, and it would be shifted from the county to the city,” she said.

In other city business:

• The council passed an ordinance that allows cremations to be done on weekends and holidays, but it also comes with fee increases “to cover the additional cost of having staff go out on the weekend to assist in either the cremation or the full burial,” Lynn said.

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