A planned mini-storage facility took another step toward reality when the city council approved several land use decisions during their Monday, Jan. 11, meeting.

Steve Richards, of Eastern Oregon Development LLC, had requested an 11.5-acre piece of property at 455 E. Elm Ave. be annexed into the city, changed from medium-density residential to commercial on the city’s comprehensive plan, and from multi-family residential to neighborhood commercial overlay on the zoning map.

Richards plans to build a large mini-storage facility on part of the property, similar to his existing business Highland Mini Storage, and save the rest for future commercial development.

City Planner Clint Spencer told the council that city staff and the planning commission supported Richard’s request, as the council has hoped to foster more commercial development in that part of town. He said the property, near Walmart and just east of the busiest intersection in Hermiston, would provide good visibility for a retailer looking to locate there, and a commercial designation would fit in with the mix of residential, commercial and industrial land surrounding the property.

“It really is a very mixed-use neighborhood,” he said.

The council passed the ordinance unanimously. Richards said his purchase of the property in question was contingent on the council’s actions, and later he will have to return to the planning commission to request a conditional use permit for the storage facility.

On Jan. 11, the council also approved the annexation of about 1.4 acres of land on 1030 S.W. 17th St. into the city, at the request of the owners. Spencer said they wish to pay to connect to city water and sewer services rather than repair their septic system.

During its first meeting of the new year, the council voted to name Doug Primmer as council president for the year, replacing Rod Hardin who served in 2020. The council president conducts city council meetings in the absence of the mayor, who was absent on Jan. 11.

At the end of the meeting, Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan reviewed the progress the city had made on the council’s 2020 goals.

“I think we all have to remember January 2020 when everyone was happy, everything was going so great, unemployment was 4%,” he said. “We set a lot of these council goals in a very, very different situation than we were dealing with in most of 2020.”

As a result, the city put off plans it had made to do extensive community outreach for long-range planning that it had planned to do at community events throughout the year.

However, Morgan said the city made progress on other goals. A consultant is currently working with the city to update its system development charges, for example, under the council’s goals for fiscal responsibility.

The city continues to work on its realignment of the intersection between Geer, Harper and River roads, but Morgan said they have faced significant problems with railroad regulations there and will need to move the intersection north as a result. He said the city also lost a significant amount of funding for streets in 2020 as the lockdown sent gas sales plummeting.

“That’s several hundred thousand dollars we’re simply never going to get back,” he said.

The city is working on a public-private partnership on infrastructure that would help facilitate a major housing development that, at full buildout over the next decade or two, would include about 950 homes, Morgan said. In 2020, the city put out a request for proposals for senior citizen housing, offering up a free parcel of land near the city’s recycled water treatment plant for development. Morgan told the council the city received several promising proposals and directed the top three to come back with more refined plans before the end of January.

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