Rocky roads may get smoothed out

DAN GRASSICK

Residents who live in Cannon Beach neighborhoods with gravel streets may soon be able to get their streets paved — with the city footing a portion of the bill.

The City Council is considering a “gravel street renovation policy” (still in draft form) that would set up a joint-venture paving program between residents and the city. The policy would allow property owners to petition the public works department to pave their streets, provided that all of the property owners who would financially contribute to the paving project agree on how to cover their end of the costs.

Conceivably, “if you had eight to 10 people on a block, you could have one or two property owners pay for the whole thing under this kind of a construct,” Public Works Director Dan Grassick said.

More than 50 percent of the affected property owners, however, would need to consent to the project as well. “They don’t all have to pay, but they have to agree that they want to have their streets paved,” he said.

For its part, the city would contribute between 15 and 25 percent of the contractor costs for laying the asphalt.

Until 1993, the city had a similar “fair share” program, built into its comprehensive plan, where the city paid 50 percent of paving costs. The council decided to discontinue the program because of “funding limitations,” Grassick wrote in a staff report.

Since then, gravel streets have been paved in town only during new development or the extension of subdivisions, like in the Haystack Heights neighborhood, he said.

The council discussed an early draft of the policy at its Dec. 9 special meeting and will continue discussion at its work session Jan.13.

If the council approves the policy, a final version could be implemented as early as February, Grassick said.

Property owners in the north end, midtown and Tolovana have already approached the city, asking what it would take to pave their streets, Grassick said. A few live in sloped areas where gravel roads present some danger to drivers.

In the north end of town, Les Wierson is one of two homeowners on Eighth Avenue — a gravel road where five property owners live — proposing to have the avenue paved between the intersections of Oak and Ash streets.

If their plan comes to pass, Wierson and his neighbors may see Eighth Avenue become a 15-foot-wide, two-lane asphalt road, he said.

Having a paved street in place of a gravel one will likely reduce instances of gravel plugging up culverts and storm drains in the area, he said.

Wierson’s engineering career taught him that “it’s more costly to maintain a gravel street than it is to maintain an asphalt street,” he said.

He and the other homeowner involved in spearheading the north-end paving project plan to discuss the proposal with their neighbors on Eighth Avenue and Oak Street “to make sure they’re OK with it,” he said.

The public works department carried out a complete road evaluation in summer 2013. Of the 26 miles of streets in Cannon Beach, about 4.5 of those miles are still gravel roads, Grassick said.

The policy objective is not to pave all of the city’s remaining gravel streets. “There are a few gravel streets that are perfectly fine,” he said.

The ones that are flat, have low traffic volume and don’t unravel during the winter or dust up during the summer will probably be left alone, he said.

The paving policy is for the gravel streets that, from a maintenance standpoint, are “a constant headache for us.” For example, a short, uphill segment of gravel road on Pacific Street at the bottom of the S-curves spreads rocks across Hemlock Street every time it rains.

Paving projects are intended “to solve localized problems,” Grassick said. A newly paved street “will connect to existing pavement, and it would be an extension of existing asphalt network.”

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