Wheeler City Manager Geoff Wullschlager had a flood of emails waiting for him Monday morning, and not because it was a long holiday weekend.
By Ann Powers
The dozens of messages were in support of a Lower Nehalem Community Trust (LNCT) proposal to buy the wetland portion of Botts Marsh.
“I have not seen a single one yet that is in any sort of opposition,” Wullschlager said. “But this is really not city business until there’s an annexation, because the wetland presides in a portion of the urban growth boundary.”
Wullschlager explained that property within an urban growth boundary is held in reserve and can be annexed into city limits to accommodate future growth needs.
Wheeler Citizens for Responsible Development (CRD) launched the email campaign on Nov. 11, calling for support of the acquisition by LNCT. Wheeler CRD’s Ralph Thomas said the purchase would indefinitely protect the 33 acres of wetland as a natural area.
“In our analysis, an acquisition of this land by LNCT would be the best and highest use for this land,” Thomas said. “We encourage everyone to send an email to the Wheeler City Manager Geoff Wullschlager in support of LNCT”s acquisition of Botts Marsh with a copy to Nancy Chase, LCNT Board Member.”
Officials said the parcel is dominantly estuarine salt marsh, tidal channel with about 1,500 lineal feet of frontage on Nehalem Bay. It is currently zoned Estuary Development for water dependent development and Water Related Commercial.
While there’s been a long-standing land use dispute over property designated under such categories, Chase said the Wheeler Vision of 2011 plan urges the city to guard wetlands and natural drainage areas from development.
“Development proposals over the last three decades have been disputed and the land ownership has changed over that time,” she said. “Conservation ownership will allow this longstanding controversy to be put to rest and help meet the new vision for Wheeler.”
Chase added that the proposed dollar amount for the wetland purchase is subject to an appraisal. LNCT has applied for an Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) grant for 75 percent of the acquisition costs.
“The grant award for acquisition costs is dependent on an appraisal and appraisal review process,” Chase noted. “If the grant is successful, LNCT will need to raise funds for the remainder of the purchase price, due diligence, a baseline and management plan and stewardship.”
An informational meeting on the proposed purchase was held for the public at Wheeler City Hall, Nov. 15. Chase said the OWEB will be asking for public input on the grant request in January or early February, and the board will meet to decide on the grants by the end of April.