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Manzanita Citizens Express Concern for Incomplete LUBA Response for the Lofts Development

By Cara Mico
The City of Manzanita met for a regular City Council session on November 9, 2022. During public comment, resident Denise Loffman addressed the mayor with a concern that many public comments hadn’t been properly recorded.

“I’m making these comments on behalf of the concerned citizens of Manzanita regarding the LUBA record for the Manzanita Lofts Project. The intervener in the case forwarded the record to me to review to make sure all the letters and evidence that had been submitted by citizens opposing the project were included in the record for LUBA. You can imagine my concern when I realized 31 letters were missing, including three of the four letters that I had written,” said Ms. Loffman.

The concern included other citizen letters that were missing from the official record as well as a community letter with 17 signature pages and 130 signatures detailing why citizens opposed the project. The letters were on the city server, but they were not in the LUBA packet for the city. Ms. Loffman expressed gratitude to the city manager, who worked quickly to correct the error.

“Our group’s concerns with the Manzanita Loft Project was that the application was incomplete and didn’t meet the burden of proof for city approval. We want city projects to follow code and to be done right, and as citizens, this seems like a reasonable ask. What if I hadn’t taken the time to go through the over 400 page record and what if the details and evidence that we brought forward in the hearings had then been excluded from LUBA review? These types of incidents can reduce the trust of citizens and government and make people feel excluded and silenced,” added Ms. Loffman.

“I understand and I deeply respect the community’s desire to highlight this error. I remember when I interviewed for this job, one of the questions that was asked of me was if I’ve ever made a mistake, how do I handle that mistake, and the first thing that you do is own it, and the second thing you do is ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” said City Manager Leila Aman, adding, “I think the two major things that we noted in this error is that we did not have a clear location for receiving information, and so we have now changed that. Our notice is clearly indicated now as to when and where information needs to be sent.”

Other comments included two concerns from resident Randy Kugler that brought up a concern regarding a survey that was only available until 5:00 PM on the 18th and not the 19th as some had thought.

“It appears that some citizens were not aware of this revised schedule and were not afforded the opportunity to fill out the survey,” said Mr. Kugler.

He also said that the city’s survey didn’t have a place to ask about residency status. The city responded that there had been a few comments received after the survey concluded, and those were shared with the city’s architects.