By Deb Simmons, candidate for Manzanita Mayor
Lately in Manzanita, attention has re-focused on our Comprehension Plan (CP) as both the Planning Commission and the City Council, made decisions to deny the Manzanita Lofts’ application and appeal. This was a land use decision.
The Comprehensive Plan is our city’s primary land use document, but city officials have often left it on the shelf. Now, thanks to a neighborhood group called the Concerned Citizens of Manzanita (CCOM), the City Council referenced the CP and used it in their decision making.
I am very pleased that the CP was applied to the standard decision process. But, let’s look at what a CP requires of elected officials.
The heart of our CP is that it defines the process of how we manage our land use decisions: what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who should do it. Goals are established and arranged in logical order through this process.
The power of the Comprehensive Plan is that it is the key document managing the development of our city. If used properly, it becomes the deciding tool that over-rides any disputes such as zoning or “conflicting or incompatible land use.”
The CP is very clear in respect to residential land use. It clearly states that “the city’s primary asset is our residential character.” (pg. 6). What Manzanita’s CP briefly highlights is an approach in, “establishing land uses which are harmonious with each other and with the natural environment, as well as compatible with existing uses.” (Pg. 6). The interpretation of this document is brought about by the City Council using the Planning Commission as advisors. They are the judges.
All incorporated cities and counties in Oregon, by state law, have a CP. The key purpose in Oregon’s Land Use Bill 100 was to set up for “Existing and proposed land use and their intensity impact on neighborhood’s character.”
Where does Manzanita’s future lie? We want a plan that clearly lays out the desires of its citizens. A clear path for decision makers and city staff to follow when development is proposed throughout the City. All of this requires an update of the old 1995 CP (first est. in 1975) and a corresponding update of the City’s ordinances. The CP states, “it is not to be static.” (Pg. 1)
The core of the current CP is well-written and compassionate. It directs our elected city administrators to make developers preserve our living areas and make sure new land use is “a positive contribution to the quality of life and which are harmonious with the coastal environment.” (Pg. 7)
Manzanita’s current path, as a city, is not sustainable. But, before drafting policies for an updated CP, Manzanita citizens must come together to decide what is important and what we want our city to look like in 10 to 20 years.
We cannot continue to disregard our CP — a factor which has attributed to the gradual decline of our city’s neighborhoods. Not only has our median age increased, but we are losing our youth and work force because, over the years, the administration has ignored a plan to develop and nurture affordable housing. By clearly stating the number of dwellings to be affordable within the city, they could have then developed a plan to reach that number. A piecemeal approach with unstated goals is not a solution.
Three key aspects within the CP reference livability. Stated in objective no. 1, “preserving within residential areas natural places…” Under objective 3 it states, “protect the character and quality of existing residential areas and neighborhoods from incompatible new development.” Finally, in objective 7, “Foster housing and living environments to meet needs of families of different size, income, age, taste and life style.” (Pg. 7).
In respect to density, it is up to the Planning Commission to “review and approve” (Pg. 8). prior to any Council decision. The Council should not be freezing and unfreezing STR caps. These decisions should start with the Planning Commission.
We are at a fork in the road. Either we stay the course, or we elect a proactive administration who will set to work on updating the CP. A proactive administration will address issues such as affordable housing and securing balance and harmony in neighborhoods. A proactive administration will bring back town hall meetings and assure citizens the right to vote on major issues.
There will be numerous ideas and hard choices to sort through, but this conversation and process will put us back on track. Manzanita should be a town for “all ages” in harmony with our neighbors and environment.
I strongly endorse these goals and this type of proactive administrative process.