By Oceansiders United
With another day comes another attempt by Oceanside True Friends (“OTF”) to fearmonger and mislead Oceanside voters into a house of mirrors that is divorced from the reality we face as a community. Frankly, Oceansiders United (“OU”) is surprised there is such a desperate attempt to obscure the truth about incorporation, and one should question the motives of such a group that distorts facts and spreads falsities with such vitriol. Nonetheless, OU is here to bring our community accurate information about incorporation, both the benefits and the costs, and we simply could not let the allegations in OTF September 27, 2022 letter* (see link below) go unchallenged. It is time to leave OTF’s house of mirrors and return to reality – here is the truth about land use litigation.
Land use issues have always, despite what OTF insinuates, been front and center of OU’s concerns. Indeed, these issues were exhaustively debated and analyzed – far more than one “side of the coin” – during the incorporation hearings before the Board of County Commissioners (“Commissioners”). While OTF’s letter contains many misleading and inaccurate statements, their letter does raise some issues for consideration.
A major portion of OU’s presentation to the Commissioners addressed the City of Oceanside’s capability to meet its obligations Oregon’s land use laws. Director of Community Development Sarah Absher explicitly testified that, in her opinion, the community is well-qualified to meet all obligations under Oregon’s land use laws. The Commissioners explicitly accepted her conclusion in its Order. As far as land use experts go, the experts in Tillamook County all support OU’s analysis and understanding of the land use issues Oceanside will face and the City’s ability to manage them.
Perhaps OTF also forgot – or does not want you to know – that all three of Oceanside’s Chief Petitioners are experienced attorneys, including one who currently practices commercial litigation, which often includes bringing lawsuits against Cities related to land use issues. All the Chief Petitioners were aware of the risks presented by litigation. We are also aware that the way to actually deal with these risks is through careful planning to minimize and manage them, not to stick our heads in the sand or avoid progressing as a community just because someone may file a lawsuit. Oceanside is stronger than that.
OTF’s specific concerns in their letter also completely miss their mark. Putting aside the fact that hundreds of Oregon cities take steps every day to satisfy their land use obligations in a way that comports with their community values without being paralyzed by the fear of litigation, the specific examples OTF presents all have one important similarity – all the cities OTF mentions are successful, fiscally viable cities. Is Wheeler bankrupt or facing disincorporation because of the litigation its facing? No. Is Rockaway struggling to keep its city operating due to losing a state court case? No. Is Cannon Beach in financial turmoil over a Land Use Board of Appeals (“LUBA”) appeal to the State Supreme Court? Again, no.
The simple fact is that a “few minutes” doing a web search and a “twenty-minute” conversation are woefully insufficient to truly understand how to manage litigation risks as a city. OU has assembled a team of legal professionals, four who are also running for City council, who understand these risks and can ensure the City operates in a manner to minimize the risks of litigation. Does OTF have someone with such experience giving them advice on these matters? It seems not, considering their misinformed view on land use issues. Perhaps cognizant of this, they resort to crafting a flashy strawman in hopes that voters will be distracted from the reality that faces us.
Regarding hotels, OTF offers no alternatives to the status quo that Oceanside faces. Will continued land use management by the same people that brought us “The Anchor” fiasco really be in the communities’ benefit? OU thinks the answer is clearly no. Additionally, a city has more tools to ameliorate the efforts of such hotels beyond just land use restrictions. The City could directly regulate parking, traffic flow, height restrictions, noise standards, and design review. But OTF simply has not taken the time to be informed on these issues and wants our community to be left to the whims of large developers and wealthy real estate investors that have little care for the concerns of Oceanside residents or the culture of our community.
Regarding the recent LUBA decision related to short-term rentals (“STR”) in Lincoln County, OU is actually on top of this issue. OU has consulted with county officials about how they plan to react to the recent LUBA decision involving Lincoln County’s ban on STRs. They emphasized that the case is on remand, and no one yet knows how it will come out either on remand or on appeal. In other words, the decision is not final, and it could go either way, but only time will tell. However, OTF pounces on this issue simply to craft an opposition narrative that has no basis in fact – a reoccurring theme in their opposition to incorporation.
Lastly, while the LUBA decision may appear to naive eyes as temporarily complicating a city or county’s decision to ban or limit STRs, it actually reinforces the ability to regulate them for “life, health and safety” reasons in the long term. This is consistent with the issues Oceanside is most concerned about, such as overcrowded parking that inhibits emergency vehicles. In short, a nuanced understanding of the decision demonstrates more reason for incorporation and is consistent with OU’s benefits of the city related to STR regulations.
Maybe OTF knew the above-described reality, maybe they think its unimportant, or maybe they just don’t want people to actually be informed on these issues before the election – or ever. Either way, what is reckless is to characterize OU as not having discussed these issues or not bringing them to people’s attention, as the exact opposite is true. Simply put, OTF seems to be the ones who want to not discuss *all* aspects of incorporation.
Will the Oceanside community cower in fear over a specter of land use litigation? We think not.
Vote “yes” on incorporation this November, and let’s take our future into our hands.
For more accurate information on incorporation, visit: www.oceansidersunited.com.