Packed House for Manzanita Planning Commission Preliminary Review of Encore Investments “Village at Manzanita”

By Laura Swanson, Editor, Tillamook County Pioneer

City of Manzanita will take written comments about this proposed development through June 13th.  Submit letters to City Hall or via email (cityhall@ci.manzanita.or.us).

Encore Investments will hold an open house on June 26th to continue the community conversation about the development — time and venue to be determined. The Planning Commission will meet on June 27 at 4 pm at the City Council Chambers. At this meeting, there will be no public comments, it will be a discussion between the commissioners and the applicants.

It was standing room only — and likely exceeding the 140 person capacity for the Pine Grove Community House (and 50 people were turned away by Manzanita Mayor Mike Scott at the door) on Monday June 5th and the event wasn’t even serving beer or wine.  This was the Manzanita Planning Commission’s preliminary review of Encore Investments planned development proposal for “The Village at Manzanita.”  A proposed 300+ home development on 70 acres, bordered by Necarney Road and Classic Street, that was originally intended to be the “back-nine” for the Manzanita Golf Course, is imagined to include a 9,000 sq. ft. commercial “village center” with a mix including restaurants, shops, “grab-n-go” store and a rental office for the short-term rentals within the community. Public use areas/buildings and private amenities such as a clubhouse, kid’s activity barn, spa and fitness center would make this a “self-contained” community.

Jim Pentz and Rick Hinkes, partners in Encore Investments, the development company selected by the land owners, Pine Grove Properties, owned by Tony Erickson and Pentz, presented their proposal to the Planning Commission and the 200 attendees.  Planning Commission Chair Owen Nicholson, recognized by City Manager Jerry Taylor for his over 20 years of service to the city planning commission, noted that this is a preliminary public meeting and that no formal decision would be made at this meeting.  There would be several subsequent meetings when Encore Investments submitted a formal application.

Rick Hinkes presented a brief overview of the development plans and reiterated that the zoning in place allows for over 400 homes, Encore’s plan calls for 300, with over 40% open spaces including pedestrian and bike paths. “There is a strong village culture in Manzanita,” said Hinkes. “We want this to reflect that culture, this is not a gated community. That’s why we are here, to find more about what can we do to invite you in? This would be a gathering place available to the community at large.”

Jim Dawson of Dawson and Associates produced the master plan for Encore, and provided an overview of the layout and components of the development. The western half (33 acres) is in the city limits, the eastern half (37 acres) is within the Manzanita Urban Growth Boundary.  The topography of the acreage and the native vegetation lends itself to parks and protected areas.  A variety of homes and distinctive “neighborhood clusters” within the development include single-family homes, ranging from small cabins, 450 sq. ft. to large custom homes over 2,000 square feet.  There are no multi-family homes/units. The development is planned in three phases spread over 10 years — the first phase would include the commercial development and 50% of the housing units, 25% in phase two, and final 25% in phase three.

Several aspects of the development have already sparked controversy and concern in the community.

Encore is proposing that this development be exempt from the city’s short-term rental cap (the City of Manzanita restricts the number of housing units allowed for short-term rentals to 17.5% of the total units.) The developers’ economists report that the financial viability of the project rests on a zero cap on short-term rentals. As noted by Dawson, the main reasons for the zero cap is to ease the absorption rate of the homes to buyers, and to entice more people to come and use the golf course. The report estimated that removing the short-term rental cap would cut the time for renewal for the golf course’s viability in half.  The plan for reviving the golf course includes the impending closure in October for restructuring of the golf course layout to accommodate a new, replacement clubhouse for the golf course, proposed for the southwest corner of the Village of Manzanita, near the existing driving range, off Classic Street. “There have been all kinds of rumors about the golf course,” said Hinkes. “It will remain public, we are committed to it re-opening, and our plans include rebranding the golf course to bring back players. And introducing other activities as well.”  During the public comment period, a majority of the speakers asked questions about the plans for golf course, in particular the Eugene Schmuck Foundation and the Mudd-Nick Foundation which hold annual fundraising golf tournaments on the course wanted assurances that their events would have access to the golf course for 2018.

The proposed commercial area would be part of bringing in more people. The economist’s studies indicate that 300 homes would support the generative demand for about 15,000 sq. ft. of commercial activity, and Encore is proposing to build 7,500 to 9,000 square feet. “We don’t want to take business from Laneda,” said Hinkes. “Since the commercial space is only half the size of what would be needed for the number of new people, and that means people would visit the existing stores on Laneda. The balance we are trying to achieve is to provide the necessities at a grab-n-go, not fill their cupboards, and encourage residents to walking rather than get in their cars.”

Hinkes noted that this development would be a “very, very significant bump” in tax revenues for the city.  As Hinkes wrapped up their presentation, he added, “From the beginning, we’ve been aware of the need to address housing for everybody in the community, but we are not an affordable housing company. We have talked to Paul Johnson of Cascade Housing, about the topic, to bring in his expertise.  We are willing to put together a working group with the City, County, Northwest Housing Authority and others to make it happen. The government has to be involved in affordable housing.” He continued, “We are willing to donate appropriate land to provide a space for affordable/workforce housing. We will commit the dollars and time to do the work to make this happen.”

Jerry Taylor discussed what the city’s comprehensive plan says about Planned Developments, which allows 6.5 units per acre, which would allow up to 455 housing units on 70 acres.  There are several ordinances and zoning changes that the planning commission will be asked to consider, including the variation in the short-term rental cap.  From the initial review of the proposal, according to Taylor, “The issues of concern to the city include the need for the commercial area, open space, parking and housing.  We understand that this is not designed as workforce housing,” continued Taylor.  “The county doesn’t just have a workforce housing problem. It has an all-types of housing problem.”  He also noted that due to the preliminary nature of the proposal, the fire chief and utilities have not yet been formally queried on this proposal. It’s early in the process, and those reviews are triggered when a formal application is made.

During the public comment period of this marathon meeting that exceeded three hours, 24 people spoke about a variety of topics, with questions and concerns.  Wheeler Mayor Stevie Burden started off with the first of many concerns about infrastructure and utilities, reminding the City of Manzanita that they lease their water rights from Wheeler. “This greatly concerns me,” Burden noted.  “You are essentially adding about as many housing units to Manzanita as currently exist in my whole town. The 8-10″ water main brings water eight miles from wells at Roy Creek, that was built over 20 years to Wheeler and Manzanita.  We will need hydrology studies.  I want assurances that this will not impact my city’s water supply. I will be asking our city manager to revisit the water agreement.”

Several residents with homes along the existing golf course expressed their concern that the golf course remain. Noted Jim Mudd, “The golf course is the heart of our community.”  Aftyn Gavin, Jim Fanjoy, Annie Naranjo-Rivera and Tom Bender all brought up the need for workforce/affordable housing. Bender noted that the City’s comprehensive and transportation plans are outdated and in serious need of review.  Bender suggested, “New developments need to be net-zero energy, incorporate solar and reduce their carbon footprint to address climate change.”  Jenny Greenleaf, a Manzanita resident and CARTM volunteer was concerned about the amount of solid waste such a development would generate, and Doug Firstbrook brought up the capacity of the sewer system and impacts on the area’s sensitive watershed.  The final public comments from Terra Marzano focused again on the need for affordable housing, she said “It’s not the structures that make a community, it’s the people.  You can’t build the kind of culture that exists in this community with part-time, short-term rentals.”

Hinkes provided some answers to questions raised throughout the meeting, and encourages continuing the conversation. “We are listening. We plan to keep the golf course.  We are willing to work to find solutions to the workforce housing, and we know that we have a lot more work to do,” he concluded. As mentioned above, Encore Investments will hold an open house on Monday June 26th with location and time to be determined.  The City of Manzanita is inviting the community to submit written comments.  To ensure consideration, written comments must be submitted before June 13, either deliver letters at City Hall or email to cityhall@ci.manzanita.or.us. The applicants (Encore Investments) have not submitted a formal application, but once they do, there will be more opportunities for public comment.

When the minutes of the June 5th meeting are finalized they will be posted to the city website (www.ci.manzanita.or.us).  Just one note, the minutes will only include the general topics of the public comments, they are not verbatim.  A recording of the session is available in case people are interested, and there is a $5.00 fee for a CD.