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Update: Manzanita city hall bond fails

Manzanita City Hall. (2014)

Manzanita voters appear to have shot down a tax increase to fund a new city hall project. The vote was 31.5-percent in favor, with 131 ‘yes’ to 284 ‘no’ and nearly 78-percent turnout, according to updated unofficial election results.

By Cody Mann
[email protected]

The $6.5 million bond measure was approved by the Manzanita City Council for the November ballot with support from all five members and the mayor. It was the talk of the town, sparking an opinionated back-and-forth over cost-cutting options and a series of public hearings.

“We believe this is a feasible number, but it could be less if needed,” City Manager Cynthia Alamillo said during an August council meeting.

The proposed bond’s funding mechanism was a 50-cent tax increase per $1,000 of assessed property value. The project includes construction of a city emergency hub, police office, administrative and workspaces, multi-purpose room and a kitchenette with storage spaces. The funds were expected to pay for demolition and construction.

Alamillo said the tax would be for a term of up to 31 years for the citizens of Manzanita. Outside grants to lessen the burden on taxpayers were discussed, but nothing has been secured at this time. There was public speculation regarding unseen additional project costs, with some citizens saying the potential added expenses would be significant.

The Underhill property currently has a schoolhouse and Quonset hut on site. – File photo

The new facility was expected to be built at 11,776 square feet and designed to meet long-term needs for multiple purposes. The site selected for the project was the Underhill property, featuring a former school building that sits out of the tsunami inundation zone, unlike the current city hall. Much of the public debate centered around remodeling or tearing down the buildings at the site.

This past August, Manzanita Mayor Mike Scott penned an opinion column in which he said estimates put the construction cost for a new facility at $500 per square foot. He said additional funds would be required for asbestos abatement, demolition of the existing structure and furnishing the new facility.

“These are estimates; when we issue the bonds next year rates may differ and the total dollar amount could be less,” Scott wrote. “But right now interest rates are at historic lows. With luck, rates will stay low and the economy will cool off by next summer, allowing us to build at a lower cost.”

Scott also noted that Manzanita currently enjoys one of the lowest property tax rates in Oregon – 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. A house assessed at $400,000 would have paid around $200 more a year under the failed bond.

Randy Kugler, a former Manzanita city manager, called publicly for scrutiny of the approach to the bond measure and the city hall project. Kugler served on an advisory committee that explored and recommended options for the project. He supported more consideration for a remodel option at the Underhill property.

After the unofficial vote results were announced, Kugler said he believes the citizens of Manzanita came to the conclusion that city officials failed to present a viable financing strategy and that other building options were dismissed without allowing for public review and comment.

“I repeatedly said during my time as a member of the Public Facilities Advisory Committee that the project had both practical and political problems that the council needed to address before they unveiled it to the public,” Kugler said. “I simply took that message directly to the community once it became apparent that the city had no interest in addressing those concerns.”

The City of Manzanita issued a statement following the defeat of the bond measure. The mayor thanked everyone who voted but said a lack of funding would stop the project from proceeding.

“As the City continues to address the needs for new facilities, we will look for compromise and common ground, working together with the community to find a solution so we can eventually build a great facility for Manzanita,” Scott said.

The election results will be officially certified by the City Council at the December Council meeting.


  1. The City states that the tax rate is so low, but what has driven taxes so high is the values established for homes in this area.

    My main home is a ranch in Eastern Oregon. I have 82 acres, a 3000 square foot home, many outbuildings and a view of the Wallowas. My taxes are $2500 a year. This includes health clinic subsidy, county taxes, schools.

    I have owned a home in Manzanita for over 30 years and have seen taxes skyrocket in this town mainly over the last 15 years. The city and county came in with too high of a tax base. At one time Manzanita was valued higher than the City of Tillamook. It was a cash cow in the making.

    City Hall created this problem and to think people would accept this absurd, naive project is stunning.

  2. The proposed new city hall and multi-purpose building was reasonable. The best time to build is during the next recession, but voters are less likely to approve a tax at such a time.

  3. From a tourist’s point of view:

    TAX the tourists. I say this because I AM one. Almost every summer for the past 10 years, my family and I have made Manzanita our home away from home, and have had the joy of watching our children grow up, meet new people from all over the country, and make new friends all on the beaches of Manzanita. There is nothing that would keep us from this special place and I imagine many tourists feel the same way.

    Over the past 10 years, I’ve noticed a few things. Number one, we used to be able to book Carmel Cottage on the fly (a month in advance); now, we book a year or more in advance (last summer-La Casa Azul). Secondly, the number of people (tourists) on the streets and on the beaches, even during the week, has increased substantially. Do I need to even mention the traffic on Laneda in July?! DEMAND to vacation in Manzanita is HIGH. Weirdly so, that this last summer, my son saw a classmate on our beach! From Billings, Montana??? I was bummed:( Furthermore, in the two industries I’m involved in (real estate and a teacher) in our little city, more and more people that I visit with, know where Manzanita is and/or have vacationed there. I can only infer that tourism in Manzanita will continue to grow.

    Look, from the mindset of a tourist…we get caught up in the beauty and charm of your town and the people who live there and make it as special and unique as it is. So much so, that an increase in an occupancy/hotel/motel/vacation rental/resort tax would not deter us from coming to Manzanita. Again, I would think most may feel this way based on the increase of tourists, as mentioned above. Full disclosure: I do not know how these increases would affect small business owners, but if the demand for product/hotel/vacation rentals,etc. remains inelastic, then couldn’t this be a viable option?

    Take advantage of US. WE take advantage of what YOU have to offer, and it only seems fair that the citizens who have to put up with us get something out of the deal!:) Lessen their tax burden so they can enjoy the reason they moved to Manzanita in the first place; peace, tranquility, and the ability to be able to live comfortably.

    Tera Cunningham
    Billings, Montana


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