Future Shock

What’s next for non-urban zoning in Curry County?

Between Curry’s cities . . . the Devil’s Backbone, on the wild coast near Ophir

Last Thursday’s County Planning Commission hearing was a shock to the six folks from Port Orford and Langlois who showed up to bring the word from Far North Curry. The massive amendments to county zoning passed unanimously, with no response to testimony from the public. The entire meeting took just over one hour. An hour . . . to casually apply radical changes to land use all over the county. Outside of public comment from one Brookings resident, no other area was heard from! This is proof that public notice was wildly inadequate, as vigilant Port Orford residents pointed out. Most citizens had no idea what was being proposed.

Clearly, the Planning Commission, and Planning Director Becky Crockett, wanted it this way. NONE of the letters of testimony (at least four that we know of) were available to the public, NONE of the written or in-person testimony was addressed during the hearing, and NO questions were asked of anyone who testified. Instead, Director Crockett and the commission spent their time on defense. To those attending virtually, their discussion took place behind a black screen, since the camera in the hearing room was off. It was difficult to see who was talking, and the sound was bad. No commissioner identified him- or herself when speaking.

“Most people are glad we’re doing this,” was one statement. (How do you know?)  And “we’ve been working on this for the last year.” (Really?) As a citizen accurately commented, “the zone amendment language was not publicly available before May 2022.” And one commissioner actually stated, “You can’t please everybody, as Commissioner [Court] Boice says.”

Boice himself was at the meeting, though the zoning matter will now come before the BOC in August. (Was this appropriate?) Also present was State Representative David Brock Smith, who spoke in “enthusiastic support” of the zoning text amendments, calling it “brilliant work.” He also disparaged the Port Orford speakers, saying that “they don’t live or own property in this area” under consideration. Besides being untrue and prejudicial, this was way out of line for an elected official. Interestingly, Smith said that he had had “multiple conversations with all of the entities.” He neglected to elaborate as to when and how he had “conversed” with the Port Orford City Council or Planning Commission. We attend every meeting and have never heard him speak on this topic.

An Urban Growth Area Joint Management Agreement between Port Orford and Curry County has been in effect since 1978. It mandates that “The Port Orford Planning Commission will be notified of any applications received by the Curry County Planning Commission for Comprehensive Plan changes, zone change, conditional use change” in the UGB. In addition, the Port Orford Comprehensive Plan specifies that “long-range planning and other matters of mutual concern” in the UGB will be coordinated with the county.

These zone changes are supposed to increase affordable housing opportunities, but will they? Or will the higher densities and lower approval standards just encourage more short-term rentals? This will surely continue to price out permanent residents, including necessary workers in the local economy. Not to mention that the Curry County Housing Action Plan of 2018 recognized that Port Orford may want to “focus on infill single-family workforce units that are compatible with its neighborhood fabric.” Since the UGB is destined to become part of Port Orford, as infrastructure and other conditions allow, it should match the city’s character , not grow far more dense. To create new housing, it would be most sensible to fill vacant parcels within the city first, while curbing sprawl around its edges.

Are we outraged yet? The Board of Commissioners will likely hear the matter on August 17. Let them know your thoughts!