Wheeler “Looking Back”

Submitted By: Wheelervisionadvocates@gmail.com – Click to email about this post
Looking Back
In 1776 a group of visionaries put into law, a document to guide a republic.
Just over two centuries later, in a small coastal town, another group were formulating their own important vision for the government of their community. They were looking for ways to preserve the special character of the town that past generations had come to cherish. They called their work The Wheeler Vision.
For those who have forgotten what the Wheeler Vision Plan is, (or perhaps never knew?) here’s a reminder….
Wheeler citizens felt that they needed to find a way to incorporate important priorities into our city’s governing documents in order to preserve the beauty and livability of the town and prevent the sort of aesthetic and environmental decline that had taken place in so many coastal communities. It took two years of citizens involvement and community surveys to accumulate the data and finalize the document, which was called the Wheeler Vision Plan. The work that had begun in 2001 was finally incorporated and adopted into laws in 2012. Some of the provisions in the plan include:
i) Preserve Small Town Atmosphere
ii) No high density development – Limit number of units in any multi-dwelling to 10 or less iii) Protect natural beauty
Existing view of bay must be considered to be of real economic value to citizens and community iv) Improve Livability
v) 24 ft Height Limit on all buildings
It ensured that future developments be in proportion to the size of the town.
We are, after all, a town of just over 450 people. A large building that might be entirely appropriate for the commercial environment of another town, would not necessarily be a good fit for Wheeler.
Four years ago a proposal for a three story 44-room hotel and a 110-seat restaurant was brought before the community. This proposed development caused quite a stir in Wheeler not only because it far exceeded the city laws, but also because the property’s location happened to be the focal point of our little town and whatever development happens there will have a huge impact on the community. The spectacular waterfront view is why Wheeler has been dubbed “The Little Town with the Million Dollar View”. In 2019, the significant majority of community testimony confirmed that we citizens wanted to see development in our town which conformed to the provisions specified in our Wheeler Vision Document and is in alignment with the character of Wheeler.
Although the previous council of that time, discounted the authority of the Vision Plan and gave the developer the go-ahead, (the height of the hotel was reduced and the number of rooms to 28) Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals overturned their decision precisely because they had ignored the Vision Plan as a governing document.
An easy solution would have been for the developer to adjust his plan to fit within the parameters of the city’s governing documents. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Over the past two years, Mayor Honeycutt and the present council have repeatedly met with the developer to discuss the requirements for an acceptable application that would conform to the laws of our town. Sadly his application for the 28 -room hotel and fish processing plant with apartments and a 110 seat restaurant remain to this day exactly the same … even though his application has been submitted to and rejected by LUBA twice and is currently in review for a 3rd time.
Our little town retains a uniqueness that isn’t found in many other places. And yes, we know that development must happen …. Indeed, it is necessary for our economy, but how we go about it is the deciding factor on whether we improve on or denigrate what we have. We only get one chance to do it right for future generations.
Just under 4 years ago, it is possible that you or your neighbor were one of the 140 people who signed a petition requesting that the city representatives follow the Wheeler Vision Plan. If you still support the Vision Plan or have an interest in wanting to keep the benefits of small town livability for all citizens and businesses, please vote for those candidates who support development that conforms to, and honors the letter and spirit of the Vision Plan.


Vision Advocates is a group of citizens committed to seeing the Vision of the people of Wheeler used to guide our town forward as the people of Wheeler intended when this plan was established and written into law.