The city of Pasco wants to clear up its right of way along Fourth Avenue.
The city took an inventory of signs, light posts, improper overhangs and other obstructions along the street while it recently was making $645,000 in improvements to the area.
The city identified a total of 22 encroachments by 17 property owners. Businesses can be considered in violation for having objects in the right of way or by having something overhang the right of way by less than eight feet.
The city should be able to work with about 13 of the property owners on licenses for signs, said Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director.
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But the city wants other signs to be moved, including wooden signs directing people to Lourdes Medical Center and the Franklin Public Utility district's yard, which are in the right of way along Fourth Avenue, White said.
"It's important that we treat everyone equally," White said. "We can't say we like your sign because it's wooden, but we don't like your sign because it is concrete."
Lourdes spokeswoman Melanie Johnston said she wasn't aware of the issue involving the sign in the right of way, but the hospital was involved with designing the Fourth Avenue project, which included landscaping, sidewalk improvements and a new roundabout at Third and Fourth avenues.
"We do work closely with the city on a lot of stuff regarding Fourth Avenue," she said.
The public utility district moved its sign out of city right of way after discussing the issue with officials from the Pasco-Franklin County Housing Authority, which owns the property where the sign was located, PUD spokeswoman Debbie Bone-Harris said.
The right of way, which includes the sidewalks and some additional property, is owned by the city. White said it is needed to allow access to underground utilities like water mains and power lines. The city will eventually need to use some of the property to widen the street.
The city council, at its Monday workshop meeting, instructed staff to talk to the property owners and see if they could come to an agreement on the impediments. Staff is expected to report back to the council at a future meeting.
The council and staff discussed removing the obstructions -- which also include dilapidated metal signs from businesses that are no longer there -- if the owners don't remove them voluntarily. The city would put a lien against the owners if they can't come to an agreement. That would allow the city to collect money if the property sells.
But they decided to be more careful after Councilman Bob Hoffmann suggested the city use a more "softball" approach in dealing with property owners.
Councilman Al Yenney questioned why the city did not deal with the right of way issue during construction, when it had equipment on site that could remove the obstructions. He said this would have been more cost-effective and less burdensome to the property owners.
But trying to work with property owners before construction started could have led to disputes that would push back the work, City Manager Gary Crutchfield said.
The property owners should be responsible for paying to remove the signs, Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said.
"The issue is they did not get a permit to put those signs in place," she said. "That right of way belongs to the public and they shouldn't be there."
But some of the signs have been in place since Yenney was a child, he said.
"Those signs are probably all old enough that you didn't even need a license," he said.
The city will deal with signs in the right of way along other streets as it completes new road improvement projects, White said.
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom