The Port Orford City Council met on August 12 to consider what message to send down to the Board of Commissioners for its hearing on the 17th. A letter was drafted by the city administrator ahead of the meeting, and another letter (written by the mayor?) was in a handout available at the door. Did they choose one? No. Did they offer a third alternative? No. Will we know what the council is going to say before the 17th? Again, no.
The decision was made to have the mayor, city administrator, and city attorney draft yet another letter “expressing all of these concerns.” Concerns that, presumably . . . well, we don’t know exactly what they will be. Many approaches were discussed, both general and specific. Many concerns have been stated by the public and reiterated in meetings and in written comments.
So let’s just throw it all in a hat and hand that off to the BOC?
What we suspect is that the letter will not assert the city’s legal right to be at the table when any long-range planning is done in the Urban Growth Boundary — as mandated in the comprehensive plans of both Port Orford and Curry County, in the Joint Management Agreement between city and county, and in state planning goals and other statutes. Why not? The city does not want to be “insulting.” The city does not want to be “inflammatory.”
As the mayor seems to believe, “we don’t have much power and that’s why we need to be respectful . . . we’re asking them to have a conversation with us.”
But the city attorney advised the council that “if there are going to be appeals” and “if the city is going to be a party,” then “specific issues need to be brought up now and made a part of the record at the BOC meeting.” Yes, this is the way a land use hearing works, folks. If the BOC approves the zoning changes on the 17th, then the opportunity for conversation goes away. Except perhaps among the lawyers.
One thing that all seemed to agree on was the need to hit the pause button. We hope that the council’s letter will ask (demand would be a better word, given the circumstances) that (a) the BOC defer its decision on the zoning amendments, (b) continue the hearing, and (c) leave the record open for further testimony. Then Port Orford may have a chance to speak up and exert some control over future growth in its UGB.
Unless that happens, the time for talking will be over.
There’s still time for YOU to contact the BOC with YOUR concerns! And please tell them to slow the train down so that Port Orford can climb aboard.
The hearing is at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 17, at the County Annex, 94235 Moore St., Gold Beach. Attend in person, or follow on YouTube (you will have no opportunity to speak unless you are at the meeting in person).
Ph: (541) 247-3296
Fax: (541) 247-2718
John Herzog, BOC Chair
Christopher Paasch, BOC Vice Chair
Court Boice, Commissioner
The Port Orford City Council met in a workshop on Monday, August 8, with Curry County Planning Director Becky Crockett. At the top of the agenda were the proposed zoning code changes as they relate to Port Orford’s Urban Growth Boundary. Crockett’s responses to questions from the council were often brief and seldom expansive, but a few things that were said stood out.
Crockett, who called herself the “author” of the changes, said a few words about how they came about. Then a councilor started the discussion by saying that the unregulated number of short-term rentals (STRs) was by far the biggest concern. Could a moratorium be put on them? Another councilor is worried that there will be a “landslide” of new applications, and he felt we should get out ahead of that possibility.
Crockett said that the issue of a potential moratorium has come up in discussions before the planning commission and the board of commissioners, but “they would actually like to put in place regulatory requirements ahead of making a determination” whether a moratorium is necessary. “That’s the position of those two bodies at this point.”
Later, she said that the council could bring ideas for a moratorium or a cap on STRs to the board of commissioners before their meeting on August 17, when the zoning changes are on the agenda. The BOC may go ahead and approve the changes without, but Port Orford could ask that the number of new STR applications in the UGB be tracked. If there’s still concern, the city could come back and ask the BOC to reassess.
Crockett said she does not know how many STRs are in the UGB currently.
Some of what Crockett said seemed counterintuitive. “The code changes are not meant to increase density, but opportunity” for contractors to build “workforce” housing. She stated that most construction now is for large, expensive single-family homes, and gave $557,000 as the median home sale price in Curry County, as of April. So, how would the code changes create incentive?
“We don’t think we’re allowing higher density,” Crockett said. “We’re spreading out density.” In the UGB, minimum lot size is one acre, unless municipal water and sewer are available. (They are not.) She said septic system requirements from DEQ would discourage triplexes and fourplexes. She did not explain why they would be permitted anyway.
When asked if increasing housing was mandated, Crockett said, “The state’s mandates are focused on large cities,” but Curry County has previously declared a housing emergency.
An overarching question brought up by the mayor was how do we plan for this increased population in the UGB and potential annexation? Crockett said that revising the Comprehensive Plan would facilitate a discussion of how to grow.
The city council will meet at 5 p.m. on Friday, August 12, to work out a council position on the zoning amendments to be communicated to the BOC. For more information, check https://portorford.org/city-council-meetings/