Interest rising in old fish plant inside Depoe Bay Harbor –
Living Pacific Seafood’s Geoff Molfino did a pretty hard sell on the Depoe Bay City Council Tuesday night, trying to convince them that since the council is dead serious about fixing up the city-owned fish plant in the harbor, he’s also dead serious that his company is the one to lease it from the city and transform it into a major addition to the Depoe Bay economy.
Of course, under state law the city must issue a public request for proposals so that all potential users get a chance to bid on the contract. But Molfino pressed ahead saying he’s got customers lined up to process a lot of crab starting this December, and his company has a lot of experience in this end of the fish business.
The city council had just received a report from a consulting engineer that pointed out the old plant is pretty weather worn and will need some fixing up – with costs ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. And that’s just for the ground floor and maybe some minor second floor improvements. Full use of the second floor will require significantly more money.
City councilors were excited about Molfino’s proposal saying it will ignite quite a spark in the harbor – not only in terms of new jobs but also creating a center of activity that many tourists will want to visit, in order to see the full effect of just what it takes to put fish on the table.
However, not everyone was excited about the prospect of a fish plant so close to nearby homes. One homeowner protested the proposition, claiming that fish plants are smelly, noisy and have trucks coming and going at all hours of the day and night. And that fish plant employees are likely to be paid minimum wage, which is not a living wage and therefore would put a lot of workers hanging out and sleeping wherever and whenever they can. And that’s not fair to the neighborhood. She said that economic development should benefit the whole town, not just put money in a few pockets at the expense of a single neighborhood.
The council said it needed more time to look at the consultant’s report and discuss a possible way forward at a future meeting. Cities have considerable regulatory control over businesses that start up close to neighborhoods, controlling noise, light pollution and other potential irritants to nearby residents. To be sure the city of Depoe Bay has been desperate to raise revenues not only for harbor improvements but also to free up other revenues for sewer, water, streets and other vital public services. Depoe Bay does not have the power, under state law, to levy a city property tax, so it’s revenue sources are more restricted, making it hard for the city council to make ends meet down at city hall.
Possible rising franchise fees for CLPUD electric customers –
City Councilors, again trying to meet rising costs to provide for the needs of its citizens, aimed it’s collective eye next on deriving higher fees on electrical bills within Depoe Bay. Today that electrical franchise tax is something that the power company, CLPUD, pays – a rate of 3.5%. Anything higher than that, by state law, must come from electric customers. State law requires that such an increase in franchise taxes be listed on customers’ bills. So if the city wanted to levy a 1.5% franchise tax increase, which would trigger the state limit on electrical franchise taxes – 5% – that higher tax would be shown on the monthly bills of everyone in Depoe Bay that writes a monthly check to CLPUD. Although just about every council member seemed to get heartburn about the whole thing, in the end they told Clerk Recorder Pery Murray to instruct the city attorney to let the power company know that the city is moving in the direction of higher franchise taxes. The city attorney is currently in negotiations with CLPUD over a franchise renewal with the city. It’s still too early to know when the 1.5% bump-up in franchise taxes might take effect for Depoe Bay ratepayers.
Additional “Fee” income possibilities from new Vacation Rental Dwellings –
The City Council Tuesday evening made it plain that while the city is under the gun to raise revenues, it doesn’t mean they’ll throw the whole city wide-open to unlimited vacation rental dwellings which produce copious quantities of room taxes. After reading a number of letters from Depoe Bay residents in strong opposition to such a maneuver, and taking similar comments from residents in the council audience, the council voted no on the city wide option. However, they did ask Depoe Bay’s planning director to contact a developer, who is building a new subdivision at the north end of town, to see if he would consider allowing some of his new homes to be VRDs – as an experiment to see if they could be good neighbors to the permanent residents living around them. A number of cities along the Oregon Coast have had major problems with VRDs whose owners don’t have local management firms to ensure that renters toe the line on late-night noise, off street parking and trash pick-up.
Mass exodus from Depoe Bay’s Economic Development Committee –
And finally, the Depoe Bay City Council accepted the resignations of a number of Depoe Bay Economic Development Committee (EDC) members. Some complained about the way the committee was functioning as well as disapproving of the overall manner in which its chairman was running things. At the same time, Chairman of the committee, Michael Keifer, also submitted his resignation, not only from the EDC, but also from the city planning commission. His letter to the council indicated no reason for his stepping down from both committees.
Councilor Zeke Olsen said he was disturbed by the action of the “near-dead” committee and vowed to seek its rejuvenation because the town needs an economic sparkplug to help move the city forward. Some in the audience and on the council think otherwise – that the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce, which has a long history with the city, is better prepared to take on that job. Olsen said he would raise the whole issue again at the next meeting of the council coming up in two weeks.