Thursday, September 15, 2011

Public Hearing on Proposal to Vacate Alley North of Cemetery Announced

Watt Shipp lived from 1875 - 1922 and is buried in City View Cemetery.

He was also an important early bicyclist in Salem, winning many races all around the Northwest in the 1890s.

In the early 1900s he was a bike dealer and in 1909 patented a bracket for a head lamp.

Somehow I think he'd be happy we're talking about making it easier to bike in Salem.

On Monday, September 26th at 6:30pm, City Council will hold a hearing on the proposed vacation of a section of alley just north of the Cemetery.

This map of tax lots shows the exact area (it shows it twice, with an inset enlarged detail).

Here's a view from the cemetery looking north.

The view to the left (the west) at the fence.

The view to the right (the east).

The alley clearly functions as an alley for the houses, and directly abuts the cemetery, separated only by a fence and low retaining wall. It's an obvious candidate for a connection.

The immediate question here is not "Is this the right place for a multi-use path?" This may or may not be the right place. But as long as it remains an open question, because the alley has "the potential to be used for a future transportation project" it is clearly premature to vacate it.

For background on the vacation, including the first staff report and recent history in the 1980s, see here and here. For the most recent staff report, which includes a 180-degree switch from opposition to the vacation to support, see here.

The relevant criteria are several, including the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan, Artice IV, Section J(1) on "Transportation," and Salem Revised Code 76.140.

But the most directly relevant language appears to be the policy in the Transportation System Plan (italics added for emphasis):
Policy 2.10 Criteria for Evaluating Proposed Vacation of Rights-of-way Right-of-way vacations may be initiated by the City Council or by private citizen petition. Vacation of public rights-of-way in the city of Salem are governed by State law (ORS Chapter 271) and SRC 76.130 to 76.144. The City shall use the following evaluation criteria in its consideration of a proposed right-of-way vacation:

a. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation actively used for transportation purposes? Many public rights-of-way, while platted, are either not open or not actively used by the public. Actively used rights-of-way may be considered for vacation conditioned upon the provision of nearby facilities for the existing users and if there is not a significant degradation in transportation services and accessibility in the surrounding neighborhood.

b. Does the proposed vacation restrict the City’s compliance with the State Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) and the Salem Transportation System Plan’s policies on transportation system connectivity? A proposed vacation should not limit, nor make more difficult, safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access to community activity centers such as schools, parks, shopping, and transit stops. Additionally, local street connectivity, traffic circulation, emergency vehicle access, and accessibility to transit service should be maintained within and between neighborhoods.

c. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation improved or unimproved to urban standards? While right-of-way in either condition may be vacated, an improved right of-way is an indication of use and should be more closely scrutinized before recommended for vacation.

d. Is the right-of-way proposed for vacation part of or near a planned transportation improvement? Rights-of-way that have the potential to be used for a future transportation project should not be vacated.

e. Does the vacation of the right-of-way satisfy a compelling public need? Issues that address health and safety concerns may outweigh the transportation criteria listed above and should be given proper consideration.
In order:
a. Yes, the right of way is currently used as an alley.
b. The vacation would make a potential bike and walking connection more difficult.
c. The right-of-way is partially improved.
d. The right-of-way has potential for a future transportation project.
e. The vacation serves a private, but not public, need. Retaining the right-of-way potentially serves active transportation needs and public health and safety concerns by making it easier for people to walk and bike.

The street scene on Commercial in front of Watt Shipp's right around the time of that 1913 ad was lively and multi-modal, with people on foot, on bike, on horse, on streetcars, in autos. Today you can still see brass lettering for E.S. Lamport's in the sidewalk just south of Clockworks. (Be sure to check out the whole panorama on the wall in Fox Blue!) Let's remember our Salem heritage and make Salem truly multi-modal again. There's no need at present to vacate this alley.

You can email comments to before 5pm on the 26th.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Arthur H. Moore was another important bike dealer, active in the 19-teens through the Depression. He built the Moore building on High Street in 1924 (Ranch Records and the payday loan business are there now, see #76 here), and buried in City View.