Over the years, there’s been lots of talk about what the city should do with its waterfront. But, really, there’s not been a whole lot of action.
Members of the Aberdeen Planning Commission hope they can take all of those goals and ideas that have been generated in years past — talk of marinas and trails and new industry — and put it to paper as they look to upgrade the city’s comprehensive land-use plan.
The commission is hosting a public meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday at the Rotary Log Pavilion to talk about both the waterfront and downtown elements behind the comprehensive plan, which hasn’t been updated since 2001.
“We want to hear from you,” Aberdeen Community Development Director Lisa Scott wrote in a letter to the community. “Have our vision and goals changed since 2001? What policies should be re-examined? What value is placed on our shared downtown and waterfront? What would we like to see in the next five, 10 or 20 years? Should we build more waterfront trails? What type of public spaces should we promote in our downtown and on our waterfront?”
Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Director Les Bolton is banking on the plan to include the concepts behind the proposed Seaport Landing at the old Weyerhaeuser sawmill site on the Chehalis River, across from Morrison Riverfront Park.
Last month, the Aberdeen City Council unanimously approved a non-binding resolution urging the Historical Seaport to continue its negotiations to acquire the site from Weyerhaeuser and to continue negotiating over a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources. The resolution was important because Bolton needs the city to eventually change the Weyerhaeuser site from industrial to mixed-use commercial zoning.
And the comprehensive plan is important, Bolton said, because he also needs the plan to reflect that a zoning change along the waterfront would be a good idea.
Planning Commission Chairman Brian Little said the commission is actually considering a whole new system of zoning requirements for the Chehalis River, a “waterfront district zoning” of sorts. The details must still be worked out. But the gist would allow mixed-use facilities exactly like what the Seaport Landing hopes to be, complete with museum and a small vessel marina.
With the city’s resolution in hand supporting the project, Little said, “Our job now becomes, how do we do that? How do we get it in the plan?”
The Planning Commission has been working on the downtown and waterfront elements of the comprehensive plan since last year. Besides Little, other members of the seven-person commission are: Bev Lufkin, Ben Bouch, Mike Schmidt, John Martinsen, Bill Sidor and Krister Lile.
“Like you, I’ve been to many meetings where the push has been for the community to reconnect with our waterfront,” Little said. “That’s something I truly believe in. Seaport Landing is a perfect example of land-use planning in action.”
Little said he hopes to lead a discussion to help the community understand the elements behind Aberdeen’s foundation.
“Why does Aberdeen exist?” Little said. “The trees and water. Ships were able to come in and pull the trees out.”
Little will show pictures of Aberdeen’s past and explain a bit about what it’s taken for Aberdeen to reconnect with its waterfront.
“What will shape the future of Aberdeen? Not rivers, sails, rails or roads, but rules,” Little said.
Scott notes that the comprehensive plan is important for the city because, like most households and businesses, without a plan, it would be harder for the city to figure out the long‐range direction and goals for the city.
“The important part is knowing what the public wants us to do,” Little said. “That’s the challenge.” That’s why we’re having this meeting.”