On June 5 at 4 p.m. the Pine Grove Community Center in Manzanita was proverbially inundated with curious and concerned citizens of the community all there to witness the City Planning Commission consider the proposal from Encore Investments regarding their plan to build over 300 additional homes close to downtown Manzanita.
By Brian Cameron
Tensions and temperatures inside the community center were high and the event proved so popular to locals that a Manzanita police officer was posted at the entrance in order to turn people away after the room hit its maximum capacity. Everyone was there to see what exactly it was that Encore Investments wanted to do and how it may affect the beachside community in North Tillamook County.
The Planning Commission listened primarily to Encore Investments spokesman Rick Hinkes as he laid out in detail the types of homes they want to build in the now-vacant area that was once planned for the back nine of the Manzanita Golf Course. Everything from small single-occupancy dwellings to large cliff side houses with quintessential views of the Oregon Coast, the goal according to Hinkes is to create a true “village feel,” though he was quick to point out that the aim wasn’t to create a gated or private community inside Manzanita.
“We are trying to ask questions of the community and the Planning Commission here tonight,” Hinkes said. “We know that there are people here who don’t share or want our vision for the property but we want to build something, and not just literally, but with the community as well.”
The issue doesn’t just revolve around the housing development but the added detail of the continued operation of the Manzanita Golf Course, which is currently on its way to closing this fall regardless of what happens to the area. Traditionally the golf course has been owned and operated by Steve Erickson who had in recent years been forced to operate at a loss due to a decline in popularity with golf nationwide. In 2016 the course only tallied 17,000 games of golf, a stark shortage compared to the average 40,000 the sport has been used to up until recently. Erickson is not intending to continue operating the golf course after this summer and a fall closure is planned, a contentious issues with avid users of the course in the community as well as organizations like the Eugene Schmuck Foundation and the Mudd Nick Foundation who use the course as a source and location for fundraising and events.
Giving Hinkes a break in Encore Investment’s presentation, Jim Dawson of Dawson Associates took the microphone and showed everyone slides of what the specific changes to the property would entail including some topographic changes involving earthmoving and eventual landscaping, in addition he went through the different types of houses being considered look like as well as potential locations for the new club house, commercial areas, roads and pathways.
“It’s possible we can open some proverbial windows,” said Dawson. “Everything is in the preliminary stages at this point and the property requires approximately 40 percent reconstruction in order to adhere to the overall plan.”
Dawson also addressed the idea that the new homes would add a considerable amount to the Transient Lodging Tax as a portion of them are planned to be offered as vacation-rental style homes as well, combined with the full-time occupancy houses the community, according to Dawson, would generate a significant amount of tax revenue.
Hinkes took the podium once more to move to the next phase of the presentation that they hoped would act to alleviate much of the unanswered questions regarding the specifics of the plan such as issues like road width, bike paths, effects to Laneda Avenue businesses, vehicle traffic and parking, and Hinkes was quick to assure the room that this was just a preliminary plan and part of the process is involving the community.
“Bottom line is if we were building a small commercial area with no incentive from local business I’d be angry too,” Hinkes said. “what we’re trying to do here is intended for convenience not commotion, that is not what we are proposing to do.”
Public commentary commences
To start off the final section the presentation the Assistant City Manager of Manzanita, Cynthia Alamillo, then got up to tell everyone she would be keeping track of the community questions so Hinkes would be able to address each question afterward.
Concerned citizens had ample time to address the issues that they felt might arise from this drastic change in potential housing and population of Manzanita and its effects on surrounding communities. City of Wheeler Mayor Stevie Burden was quick to point out Manzanita’s current reliance upon Wheeler’s public water system, a friendly agreement set in place in the 1990s that may require reexamination if a sudden increase in usage occurs due to the planned 300 additional homes in Manzanita.
Other local concerns were brought up such as topics like the definitions of workforce housing, legal issues that may arise, solid waste and its effect on CARTM, sanitation issues that currently affect the golf course area, infrastructure concerns, the lasting changes to the golf course and its proposed temporary closure during construction.
“I get the impression just from the look and feel of it that this is a country-club community intended to support the golf course,” said Aftyn Garvin of Nehalem. “Maybe the course is important to the community, but is it important enough for this project to go forward?”
Manzanita resident Tom Bender passionately brought up the issue that Manzanita’s zoning ordinances are, to him, out of date and pointed out that currently the City’s comprehensive plan doesn’t acknowledge coastal issues like earthquakes and tsunamis. Also that this proposal violates short-term rentals in that they are asking for a rental cap that currently goes against standard area practice.
After a great deal of public comment Manzanita City Manager Jerry Taylor got up to suggest that because a great deal of people had been turned away at the door, more than 100 according to some, that there should be a chance for concerns to be written to the planning commission and suggested a continuation of the meeting at a later time. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to do so and anyone with additional concerns will be welcome to write in to the Manzanita Planning Commission or the City of Manzanita so their thoughts can be seen by everyone.
To finalize Rick Hinkes once again stood to close the presentation and once again assured everyone that this was merely the preliminary stage of the process, and an important one to Encore Investments.
“All I can tell you is that we will commit whatever it takes to try and solve it,” Hinkes said. “To work with the city and county to make it happen.”