Following a contentious public hearing, a decision to nix the Arch Cape Design Review Committee has been tabled, though its dissolution may be inevitable.
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday night in favor of an ordinance to dissolve the committee, but needed unanimous approval since the vote was called immediately following the public hearing. Another vote likely will take place at the board’s meeting later this month, which will require a simple majority to pass.
County commissioners previously voted twice to dissolve the committee, and an appeal was filed with the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
The appeals board sent the decision back to the county, saying it did not provide public notice of a previous hearing in a newspaper of general circulation.
The hourlong hearing Wednesday night included testimony from five people who disagreed with county staff’s and most of the commissioners’ characterizations of the design review committee.
Opponents have raised concerns about Arch Cape residents losing power to review lands in their community. But neighborhood associations and amendments to the county development code could provide review in the absence of the committee, Community Development Director Heather Hansen said.
“The issue before you tonight is not whether citizen involvement is important to the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners,” Hansen said. “It’s about the appropriate role for a county-appointed committee that advises on land use decisions.”
County counsel Chris Cream said the county has been liable to legal ramifications because the committee has not followed procedural or public meetings rules. Commissioner Lianne Thompson added she is one of multiple Arch Cape residents that has been confronted by members of the committee either in person or over the phone regarding various issues.
Michael Manzulli, an attorney from Cannon Beach, said during public testimony that the committee is advisory in nature and makes no decisions. He called the charge that the committee did not follow legally mandated procedures “insulting.”
“This council is drumming up all kinds of fear to get rid of us,” he said. “This is a staff-driven mission to dismiss us, and it’s really upsetting.”
Tevis Dooley, a contractor from Arch Cape, presented commissioners with a petition in favor of the committee — formed in the 1970s — with 216 signatures and 94 comments.
County Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan, who represented the sole vote against the ordinance, said she hopes the county will find a way to keep the committee functioning.
“This organization has been existing a long time, and people seem like they want to work it out,” Sullivan said. “I wish we could find a way to work it out.”
Because commissioners did not reach unanimous agreement Wednesday, the committee has staved off elimination for another few weeks.
“The county is at fiscal risk,” Commission Chairman Scott Lee said.