Managing Growth

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Posting on behalf of Kim Rosenberg.

Managing Growth

At a Planning Commission Meeting a couple of months back, one of the Commissioners said something like this–just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. It’s one of those common sense things people say because we all recognize the truth when we hear it.

Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the hotel proposal for Dorcas and Classic because the developer is using the Ordinances for a Planned Unit Development in an SRR zone to build a 34 unit keyless hotel. The 3rd Street proposal for Heron’s Rest that was denied in 2017 was also a Planned Unit Development in the R-2 and R-3 zones so I’m interested in how the ordinances will be interpreted.

Concerned full and part time residents wrote letters to the Commission many giving specific places in the Ordinances that seem at odds with the proposal. One letter pointed to the mandatory language requiring more complete plans before approval. The letters were included in the public testimony at the Planning Commission’s May meeting. A group has formed and to join the email list you can contact:

It seemed from the remarks of the Commissioners during the meeting that they also have concerns, which weren’t addressed by the applicant. It’s confusing to me why the Commissioners feel they need to approve applications that they aren’t satisfied with. If anyone should be able to say, “Hold up!” to a development, it should be the Planning Commission. Members of the public who attended the meeting thought there would be time for public comment, and it seemed the Chair thought so too, but public comments were closed at a previous meeting.

I believe there will be another chance for the public to speak at the next Planning Commission Meeting. I hope so because closing comments at public meetings when people are waiting to speak, shuts people out of the conversation. And, isn’t that what public meetings are all about? The opportunity to speak about something happening where you live.

There are quite a few groups springing up around town in the past few months. I think that might be in part because there haven’t been opportunities for us to have big discussions about things like short-term rentals, work force housing and so many other hot topics. When opportunities at public meetings to comment are closed, as they have been three times in the recent past, trust erodes.

It’s been weird to do all our city meetings via Zoom–very necessary, but weird! Since we changed to the Webinair format, we no longer have the ability to know who is at meetings, where they live, who has their hands raised to speak and who is chosen to speak. The introductions we used to do at in-person meetings aren’t possible, when there’s a big turnout at a virtual meeting. It would take up all our time to introduce everyone if 80 people were in attendance. But I wonder if there’s another way to make the Webinair more transparent to those watching. Otherwise it’s like watching TV. It doesn’t feel public.

This keyless hotel proposal on Dorcas and Classic has really stirred the pot. Maybe because Planned Unit Developments are bigger than a couple of houses. Maybe because they impact density in areas that are residential. Maybe because the Planning Commission seems unable to deny applications they find problems with. Maybe because, as it stands, there won’t be an on-site manager 24/7. Maybe just because things are changing so fast all over town.

I spoke with someone who thought I was against growth. I’m not. I’d like to see growth that supports a sustainable community with housing for people working here, services and goods that support people who live and work here full and part time–that kind of thing. She said we don’t need to stop growth but we need to manage it. I agree. But to manage growth we need a plan that takes into account reality and what our community really needs to survive and thrive. There are limits to what the land and our town can carry. The watershed, the infrastructure like roads and storm water management–all these resources have a limit.

I believe that the plan we have to manage growth is the Comprehensive Plan, the primary land use document on record with the State of Oregon and on the City’s website. The Ordinances and the Plan have drifted apart over the years but that doesn’t matter. When push comes to shove it’s supposed to be the Plan that solves disputes.

At the coming Workshop from 3-5 on Wednesday, June 8 after the National Hazard Mitigation Plan agreement is presented, our City Manager will lead a discussion about Community Outreach and Engagement. I’m looking forward to hearing new ideas for a fresh approach from our community! Hope to see you there!

Kim Rosenberg.