By Deanne Ragnell
If Manzanita is a village, then Wheeler – so much smaller — could be called a Hamlet. The fact is, we are a small community doing its best to maintain economic stability while holding on to the very values that have made ours such a unique community.
The questions that seem relevant to our small town: Why can some communities maintain their historic character and quality of life, as they support their economy, while others loose the very qualities that once gave them appeal?
Research shows successful communities capitalize on their distinctive assets through the following practices: They have a clearly defined vision for the future.
They pick development projects with an eye toward maintaining their strengths and identity
They pay attention to community aesthetics that engender pride and draw visitors.
They support strong leaders and committed citizens
They lay out effective plans to enhance existing assets.
Communities with a vision for the future will develop along very different lines than those accepting of whatever happens to come along. Development can be an asset or a detriment depending on how intelligently it is pursued. Wheeler was ahead of its time many years ago when it decided to inventory the community’s assets, and plan development around them. The Wheeler Vision Plan took two years of community work to compile, and has since become a mandatory governing document.
When times are tight, it may be understandable to assume that economic woes can be fixed by allowing ‘big’ development. Unfortunately, many small communities are littered with projects that were sold as the “solution” to a town’s economic woes, yet ended up altering/obscuring the nature of the town. A brief mental review of towns along our coast will call up several such examples.
“Development’ isn’t the issue, but rather what proposed development is going to provide, and how it will support and contribute to the existing community. Some development projects will make a community a better place to live, work and visit. Others will not.
No matter what type of development is considered, it is a mistake to ‘bend the rules” and push any project through without requiring the necessary critical studies, and without adhering to what the community has identified as its most important assets. Doing so disrespects the process of gathering community voices in the first place. It is my belief that our Mayor, and the majority on the existing Wheeler City Council, are doing their best to take these issues seriously. I am running to further that support.
Tourism is now the economy that has replaced the early fishing and lumber economy of Wheeler. Places that have valued, protected, and celebrated their waterfront have become increasingly rare on our coast. More and more funding is becoming available to those communities that have maintained the unique character of their town. This is because tourism is all about visiting places that are appealing, quaint and unique! If we truly believed that our town should devolve to what others on the Oregon coast have become – a drive through with no vista – what reason would there be to stop here? Live here?
Our town has so many natural assets, and yes, we have opportunities for increasing small business development that can capitalize on our beautiful bay and surroundings. We also have opportunities for housing to support our workforce. I am willing to put in the work to find ways to make these changes in a manner that honors the assets we currently have, and to maintain and enhance the town we are proud to call home.
If elected, I will judge each issue that comes before me on the facts, and will work diligently to ensure that Wheeler moves forward as a beautiful, vibrant, and economically sustainable community……a place of pride and affection that we are proud to call home.
I support the Wheeler Vision Plan.
Please support me, Deanne Ragnell, for Wheeler City Council