By Cara Mico, Assistant Editor
The City of Manzanita held its third town hall listening session to discuss the process of updating the nearly 30 year old comprehensive plan. Two previous listening sessions were held in the summer of 2022, attended by nearly 60 people at the first town hall and 30 at the second, with little overlap of residents that participated in both. In addition to the listening session the City also provided a survey to residents and interested parties to better understand the needs of those who live, work, and play in town.
The City was overwhelmed by the thoughtful and thorough responses to that survey. Community participation was high with 57% of respondents registered to vote in Manzanita, or 15% of all 587 registered Manzanita voters. Over 160 pages of responses were distilled down into 5 key categories and presented back to the attendees of the listening session to ensure that nothing was lost or misunderstood.
The 5 key categories on Manzanita resident minds? Community, growth, infrastructure, environment, and business. The survey results contained a lot of specifics that were filtered into larger themes and the city removed anything that wasn’t actionable.
Leila Aman, City Manager of Manzanita, presented the findings and worked with facilitators to go more in depth on the topics during the final listening session.
“There are things that the city can’t do, like influence house prices, but the city could help with affordable housing. We can’t stop growth but we can manage growth,” said Ms. Aman.
A common survey response was the desire to see an increase in developer fees. Many residents feel that the current system development charge (SDC) structure benefits developers at the expense of the community. Currently Manzanita charges SDCs for water, storm water, and parks, but not for roads. A potential solution is to add a transportation SDC which would be outlined in the updated comprehensive plan.
Residents also voiced concern about the lack of funding for regular maintenance. As SDC’s cannot be used for system maintenance and Manzanita has a very low property tax rate, resources for maintenance are limited. The city is in the process of creating a transportation plan and Ms. Aman believes that the council will be updating SDCs in the first 2 quarters of 2023.
Growth and development were primary concerns for a number of residents with several wanting to update the code to limit size and height requirements of new construction.
“Comprehensive plans are a living road map, updated every five years. By updating the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance, we can address concerns about traffic and density,” said Ms. Aman.
An audience member suggested that the City try to rely more on local knowledge than outside consultants to update the Comprehensive plan, and pointed to the Post-acknowledgement plan amendments (PAPA) process as a potential avenue to explore.
Ms. Aman acknowledged this desire but stressed the importance of using subject matter experts to create the plan adding that there are missing sections meaning that it’s more than an update to the plan that is needed. As an example, to complete the transportation section of the plan a traffic impact analysis would be needed, and that isn’t something that could easily be accomplished locally with volunteers.
Other key themes from the survey results were tree protection, habitat conservation, and affordable housing for employees, seniors, and working people.
The groups further discussed the issues to provide feedback to the city regarding the major themes. There will be another week to provide feedback for those that missed the listening session and results should be ready by the November 9 or December 7, 2022 meetings in order to set budget priorities for the upcoming year.