City Council opts to eliminate 7th Avenue school zone

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council decided to remove the school zones on Seventh Avenue near Oak Heights during its regular meeting on Jan. 8.

The council had considered that possiblity in December and delayed making a decision to gather more information about state requirements for school zones after a couple of councilors expressed interest in not only keeping the school zone in place but perhaps extending it.

City staff proposed removing the zone because access to Oak Heights Elementary on Seventh Avenue had been closed by School District 55.

The question was whether the council could extend or keep extended a particular school zone, said City Manager Craig Martin. The Seventh Avenue school zone, north and south of Elm Street, no longer fits the state guidelines for a school zone.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has guidelines that describes what school zones should be but not what they must be, Martin said. The road authority in a particular area has the power to decide what a school zone will be.

“The City Council in this area is the road authority,” Martin said. “You have the latitude to choose.”

Councilor Scott McKee Jr. said the speed limit on that street is 25 mph.

City Attorney Robert Snyder said he counted cars at the intersection of Elm and Seventh one day from 7:09 a.m. to 7:49 a.m.

Heading east on Elm were 59 vehicles, and heading west were 57 vehicles. Eight vehicles came from the north on Seventh, and 13 cars came from the south on Seventh.

Snyder saw 25 children on foot coming from different directions.

The main traffic is on Elm Street, Snyder said.

“I don’t want to see it changed,” said Councilor Marybeth Angulo.

Keeping the rules uniform is a good reason to close the school zoning, said Councilor Scott McKee Jr. “I think it’s important to stay uniform and consistent.”

“Ideally school speed zones should be kept short to enhance driver compliance,” said Councilor Craig Fentiman.

The ODOT guidelines mention that the zones should be uniform and short to encourage driver compliance.

The Council voted 6-1 to close the school zone. Voting to close it were councilors Greg Mahler, Craig Fentiman, McKee, Dave Trask, Bruce Hobbs and Mayor Jim Gourley. Angulo, who teaches at Oak Heights, voted against closing the school zone.

In other business, the council:

n Appointed Anay Hausner to the city Budget Committee, Traffic Safety Committee, Board of Appeals and All-Hazard Mitigation Committee.

Positions remain open on many city boards and committees. For information about serving on one of the committees, call the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969 or stop by City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.

n Passed an ordinance vacating a portion of the public right-of-way along Dogwood street from 16th Avenue to 18th Avenue.