Hurry Up … and Wait

In August, something alerted the Port Orford City Council (CC) to the possibility of new development proposals downtown, where the maximum allowable building height is 45 feet in both the 4-C (commercial) and the 10-MU (mixed use) zones along Highway 101. Because Port Orford currently has few structures approaching 30 feet tall, any new buildings at 45 feet would be jarring. The council decided to mandate 25 feet maximum heights in ALL zones. The Planning Commission (PC) was instructed to rewrite the zoning code to achieve these changes. This was done and approved. The CC then sent notice of public hearings on these new land use regulations, as required by state law.

All well and good. Concerned citizens sent letters, issues were aired, and opinions were expressed at two hearings in November. The next step was for the council to discuss the proposed height restrictions and take action. But instead, the councilors deferred the matter … to January 2021. What caused them to put the brakes on, when in August it had seemed to be so urgent to take action?

This seems to be a pattern for the city. Discussion often drags on and on, over many months, without a decision. In 2016-2017, the PC deliberated creating an off-street parking ordinance, the CC wrangled over it, appointing committees and subcommittes to try to come to a compromise between factions. Finally, the council just voted no, we’re not going to do this.

Was it weariness? Fear of alienating one side or the other? Insufficient governing experience? Lack of leadership? Poor planning and legal advice? All of the above? The same process is also playing out right now with the Outdoor Lighting Code — formerly known as the Dark Sky Ordinance — which is waiting for approval after reaching a second reading at the CC. Now it’s been bumped to the back of the line.

You have about three days to get your comments about the proposed building height changes to CC by the December 3 deadline. But first, you may want to know more about the issues in play. That’s next.