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Council members plan to visit several parcels of land owned by mayor before deciding

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl, right center, speaks to the St. Helens City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 19, during a public hearing where he requested a street vacation for properties he owns along 8th, 9th, and Wyeth streets. The vacation would allow him to put in a 20-foot-wide roadway — a deviation from the citys standard 60-foot-wide roadway — which would provide access to the properties near the top of the bluff. A final decision has yet to be made by the St. Helens City Council after the mayor recently submitted a street vacation request which would provide him access to several properties he owns on Wyeth Street.

After an hour-long public hearing Wednesday, Sept. 19, the City Council agreed to postpone a final decision and requested each councilor visit the property, which features a challenging topographical layout, before deciding on whether or not to approve the vacation request and possible street design.

St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl and Ron Schlumpberger, an insurance agent in St. Helens, first turned to the city's planning commission in August to request a vacation of several portions of right of way along 8th, 9th and Wyeth streets to allow for paving of a roadway which would provide better access to several parcels of property they own at the top of the bluff.

The planning commission held discussions and deliberations on the request over two meetings in August and September before giving the recommendation to allow the St. Helens City Council to review the request.

The council was presented with four design options, with a staff recommendation to approve the third or fourth option, which allows for a 20-foot-wide alleyway drive to be constructed from 9th Street headed east along Wyeth, which would terminate in either a hammerhead design or cul-de-sac as required for emergency vehicles to have access.

The geographical features of the property make it difficult to design a standard 60-foot wide roadway, so an alleyway design of 20-feet-wide was proposed by city staff.

At least one person submitted a written commentary in opposition to the proposal on Sept. 13 — Cheryl Young, manager of the St. Helens Senior Center. The senior center owns a 0.37-acre piece of property on 8th Street, across the road from the parcels of land Scholl owns.

"While we understand Mr. Scholl and Mr. Schlumpberger's reasons for vacating the streets for their own gain for potential development and income, we believe they should consider the needs of future uses of our property and not even think of closing off a potential access to it," the letter stated in part.

In the letter, Young explained that Scholl had proposed to sell property from the senior center for $1,500 listed value on the county tax rolls. Young explained that the land, although not necessarily suitable for building at the moment, could be useful for the senior center as an investment in the future. Young said she has considered asking a cell phone company to consider building a cell tower on the land, or possibly developing it for senior housing.

During the hearing Wednesday, several other residents spoke in opposition, citing concerns about the proposed roadway limiting access to the senior center property in the future, while others cited concerns about the narrow width of the proposed alley access, which would be only a third standard width.

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