LONG BEACH - Attendance was high at the Long Beach City Council meeting Monday evening as members of the Edgewater Condominium Association addressed their issues with City Administrator Gene Miles and his decision to open up a neighboring alley for an elderly business owner to park his car.
While the act initially appeared to be nothing more than a kind gesture for an elder, some community members expressed discontent with the exception the city had made.
For months, possibly even years, current and past members of the association say they have attempted to work with the city to define full or partial ownership of the alley, which runs directly behind several downtown Long Beach storefronts.
According to members of the association, the city council (which then had Ken Ramsey as mayor and Robert Strope as city administrator) agreed back in October that the alley was Edgewater property.
During the July 16 meeting, Miles asked the council if they would allow him to let an elderly business owner park his car in the closed alley, under the condition that surrounding merchants were notified upfront. After some discussion, council agreed to the request and Miles gave the elderly gentleman, Leonard Werner, permission to park behind his business. Since then, Edgewater members have come forward with complaints regarding the decision and demanded that the city "give back" their 10.6 feet of the alley.
At Monday's meeting, Mayor Ralph Moore excused himself from the discussion, stating he is an adjoining property owner. Association member Noel Kingsbury asked that council member Don Maxson also be removed from deliberations because he owned nearby property several years ago. Council member Jerry Phillips ran the meeting.
As the first to speak for the association, Sue Buchardt described council as having "amnesia of the previous decision," resulting in "actions beyond comprehension" and stated that she had copies of the October meeting on record. According to Buchardt, the association re-established the property boundary and is prepared to protect it from being used by Werner to unload things for his business. She went on to say that she heard Werner is a close friend of Mayor Moore's wife and that Moore overlooked the previous decision in October and allowed Miles to let Werner park in the alley. She continued by saying that while Werner, who was also in attendance with a walker in tow, has only been spotted in the alley for a couple hours at a time, she has never seen his walker before.
"According to law, nine feet is needed to create a parking spot," said Buchardt, who planned to put in an application for the installation of a fence on the alley. "The alley is 19 feet and the association owns 10.6 feet - there is not enough room.... You say we don't own the property, I say you prove it to us."
Edgewater Condo Association President Garrett Chatham told council that the association needed a determination made for liability and legal purposes. He later added that there was no malicious intent in the matter, but feels there is not enough space to park a car and the association would like to establish their property rights.
Kingsbury stated the association spent months at the city's request to receive an answer last fall.
"Never did Ken Ramsey or Robert Strope question whether it was our property, it was never an issue," said Kingsbury, who said Ralph Moore and Tim Davenport have caused a disruption in the alley with the additions they have made. "The city may want to consider honoring the agreement we have before any litigation."
Pam Mason Kingsbury said that for her, the alley is a safety issue for pedestrians.
Former owner Tina Slagowski said the alley has been a problem ever since she bought the property and the city started a beautification process and "blacktopped the whole thing." Feeling that the association deserves a fence, Slagowski said that Moore has been allowed to build out on his property without permits.
Appearing to be caught in the middle, Werner explained that several years ago a water main broke in the alley and the city assumed all responsibility and fixed the main. He concluded the area in question has been considered an alley the entire time he has lived here and the association should stop placing bollards and other items to block it off from traffic.
Forty-year resident and Long Beach business owner Marcia Masterton stated that the space has always been known as and used as an alley - quite possibly the only alley on the Peninsula.
Bringing public comment to a close, Gene Miles said, "There seems to be some implications that I am dishonest. I have never had that accusation in the 30 years I have been doing this and I am very offended by that."
With a decision finally made, Miles stated that the area is a city alley "without equivocation" and that the Edgewater Condo Association will be required to remove any planters or bollards from the alley within 72 hours.
"If they are not removed by Friday, the city will move them and they can be picked up at the city shops for a fee," explained Miles, who said the council's decision last fall never stated the space was not an alley. "You can bring this to a judge, but the judge will determine that it is an alley."
After several outbursts, Phillips informed the room that although there is still a big disagreement on the matter, the city will move forward as needed with the legal advice they received from the city attorney and a land-use attorney.
"We're going to have to take this to a different level, because we cannot solve it here," said Phillips, reminding everyone to remain professional on the matter. "We can argue all night, but we [the city] won't change."
Other businessCouncil member Fred Cook expressed the importance of improving entrance areas of the Peninsula because "the whole area is a gateway to our national parks."
Feeling that the Seaview intersection could be made more attractive, Cook says the Washington State Department of Transportation has helped create a design for an altered entrance that would feature plants and landscaping. According to Cook, $5,000 to $7,000 could purchase wholesale plants for the project from the state. Phillips motioned that the council give $1,000 to encourage other cities to do the same. The motion passed.
Continuing with the agenda, Miles informed council that when it comes to the Seaview annexation plan, there is a specific process to be done under the direction of Community Development Director Kaye Simonson. According to Miles and Simonson, the mayor and council would need to start the process by sending a letter to the county commission. Council voted to direct staff to prepare the letter.
Council members also approved to fund the advertising expenses for the Beach to Chowder Run, which hasn't been in the city's budget since 1998.
Council ReportsIn his council report, Phillips reported that Miles has been touring Long Beach to meet with business owners, who have commended him for the administrator's outreach effort. Phillips also reported that the Long Beach Police Department welcomed a new reserve officer, Joe Moses, and that Chief Flint Wright was recently praised for his compassion while on the job.
In his mayor's report, Moore noted that he attended the Jazz and Oysters event recently. "It's great to see the other end of the Peninsula continuing to host great events, it was very well attended."
Among several other additions to the Peninsula, Simonson reported that Honda of Aberdeen has applied for a temporary permit to sell cars in the lot south of Nick's West.
Chief Wright told council that a Long Beach police officer was recently sent to a Spanish class to learn enough of the language and culture to make traffic stops and arrests.
Wright also announced that Families Against the Meth Epidemic (FAME) is working to raise $25,000 to purchase and train a drug dog for the Pacific County Narcotics Enforcement Team (PACNET). Currently, PACNET and other agencies have to go out of the area to acquire a drug dog for a search, the closest being Wahkiakum and Grays Harbor counties.
Remembering Dr. Jeff WalkerIn public comment, Deborah Walker said she would like to purchase a memorial bench for her late husband, Dr. Jeff Walker, who was a dentist on the Peninsula for more than 30 years and passed away in July. She asked if the bench could be placed in Coulter Park.
Mayor Moore agreed to the request. Walker also said that she would also like to donate $1,000 to the drug dog fund in her husband's name.
Applauded for her generous offers, Walker's donation was matched by council member Maxson.