The Cannon Beach City Council has unanimously voted to adopt the city’s first strategic plan, though some residents called for the council to wait another month to allow for more community input.
“I am very proud of the council and staff and the amount of dedication and work they put into this,” City Manager Brant Kucera said at the August 2 meeting. “It’s the foundation we’re going to need to move forward as a community. There is no good reason to delay this.”
The plan, a five-year road map for the city that will be revisited every two years, is a way to “align our human resources with our budgetary resources to ensure that these priorities get done,” he said.
The city’s top focus is affordable housing, with goals that include adding 25 units by 2018. Officials also prioritized infrastructure planning and maintenance, emergency management, relationship with the community and effective government.
City councilors and staff removed the goal of temporarily suspending new transient lottery rentals, a topic debated at Planning Commission meetings last month.
At meetings in May, councilors and city department heads analyzed citizen survey results, discussed city issues, identified priorities and set “measurable” goals for each priority.
“This is a working document describing our council’s direction to staff and ourselves for the foreseeable future,” Councilor Mike Benefield said.
Goals include establishing a mass care site at the city-owned South Wind property, deciding whether to purchase the elementary school site by the year’s end, creating more downtown parking, adopting financial policies and more.
Moving the goal of creating clearer short-term rental regulations by the year’s end from the “affordable housing” priority to “effective government” was another change before adopting the plan.
The Planning Commission no longer needs to consider the suspension of new short-term rental lottery permits at its upcoming meeting, since the council eliminated the part from the plan, City Planner Mark Barnes said. The commission could still consider moving the short-term rental program from the zoning code to a stand-alone ordinance at its August meeting.
The strategic plan is not legally binding and is separate from the city’s comprehensive plan, City Attorney Tammy Herdener said. She said 85 to 90 percent of each item “will come before the public by law in the future as we implement the plan.”
For example, the budget committee would vet the goal of saving money each year for South Wind infrastructure, and any zoning code change would go to the Planning Commission first, Herdener said.
“It will come back to the community,” Councilor Wendy Higgins said.
Two open houses in July shared the plan with the public.
Some residents criticized the timing of the open houses and the citizen survey.
Jan Siebert-Wahrmund suggested the city allow another month for public input, and hold an evening open house for residents who work during the day, before adopting the plan.
“This plan would have a substantial impact on our community,” Siebert-Wahrmund said. “It’s complex, it’s dealing with very large proposals. There could be more community ownership if you involve the public in the process from the beginning.”
Angela Benton and Linda Beck-Sweeney agreed that the council should wait to adopt the plan for further community input.
“It’s really important not just for the local community, but for the second homeowners to have an opportunity to provide input on the strategic plan,” Benton said.
The strategic plan open house was “poorly announced,” during the busiest week of the year and “explained the attempt of what I see as manipulation of the public,” Beck-Sweeney said.
Kucera said the city advertised the open house in advance. Councilor George Vetter said public input was intended to come from the survey, which had a 40 percent return rate.
“The purpose of this open house was not necessarily for the public to change the plan, but rather for the public to become aware of the survey results and interviews with staff and council,” Vetter said, adding that a better time could have been chosen.
Siebert-Wahrmund said the survey was not “real public involvement.”
“Not only was this survey poorly executed but there were questions in the survey obviously developed to achieve a particular outcome, rather than a fair inquiry of the public opinion,” Beck-Sweeney said.
Mayor Sam Steidel also opposed the survey.
“I don’t put a whole lot of weight in surveys because I know that surveys muddle things,” Steidel said. “I grew up in Cannon Beach, I know Cannon Beach. I know that people like to talk about things. Having a process that actually counters one of the topics in the survey, which is relationship with community, is disturbing.”
“A survey is the only way of getting as much input as possible in a statistically valid method,” Kucera said.
Higgins said she was “amazed by the valuable input” the surveys provided.
“This is not an attempt to sabotage the concept of Cannon Beach,” Councilor Melissa Cadwallader said of the plan. “I strongly support the fact that this council adopt the plan tonight.”
Some councilors suggested educational sessions during the evening to reach a broader audience.
“It’s time to move forward but continue to have a dialogue,” Higgins said.