Pipeline Gains Approval for Two Routes — For Now

Despite numerous public comments questioning and identifying problems with the applications, both conditional use permits (a preferred and an alternate route for the effluent pipeline) were approved by the Port Orford Planning Commission on March 14. An appeal to the City Council is expected.

Before deliberating, the five-member commission reviewed the staff report and received advice from the city attorney and the city planner on the criteria to be used in their decision-making. A list of some 26 exhibits — ranging from photos and maps supplied by the applicant, Elk River Property Development, to letters and e-mails from opponents — that had been submitted was read into the record. The packet of information for the meeting is here:

Planning packet 3-14-2017

A critical question for the commissioners was whether the effluent pipeline is permissible according to city zoning codes. Because no such use is stated in the applicable ordinances, the answer depended on whether the pipeline could be described as a “similar use” to utilities that are allowed outright in the various zones. After much debate, the commission voted narrowly (three to two) that the pipeline is (as stated in Staff Report findings) “a private utility use of the same general type as the public utility uses listed.” Dissent revolved around whether private utility is a legally recognized term and whether the applicant qualifies as such a provider, either under Port Orford zoning or Oregon law.

After settling, however uneasily, the question of similarity, all that remained was to agree on conditions to be placed on construction of the pipeline. While technical issues, such as easements, engineering, and materials, are relatively straightforward, a major obstacle to approval for many who commented on the applications was lack of essential permits for receiving, transporting, storing, and even land application of effluent at the proposed golf course. A condition that all necessary permits must be acquired seems vague and weak at best, since they were not listed, nor were time limits set. Also, since the City of Port Orford has not yet agreed to supply effluent for the golf course — or even been asked to do so — obtaining permission for a pipeline to carry it looks pretty presumptuous.

Another glaring fault of the applications was that only part of the pipeline route was covered. Nothing was stated about how the effluent would get to the golf course once it left the City of Port Orford. Not even as background information. The excuse given was that P. O. Planning has no jurisdiction in the Urban Growth Boundary, which the pipeline would have to pass through, and that at some point Curry County would be applied to. ERPD had decided that Port Orford doesn’t need to know what goes on to the north, in spite of the Joint Management Agreement between city and county over the UGB.

And so, the golf course project rolls slowly along, zig-zagging among jurisdictions and agencies, revealing only bit by bit its larger plan and footprint. A strategy that may well serve them, but certainly makes a mockery of planning in North Curry County.