Newport City Council gets a mixed review on the County Commons project and tackle herbicide spraying in Newport’s drinking watershed
Plans appear to be moving along, pushed by the county on the proposed Lincoln County Commons, the $10 million dollar fairgrounds/commons/convention center project that is moving along at a rather slow pace. Part of the reason for the slowness is, in the words of some Newport city councilors, the plans are not far enough along in design or cost estimates to warrant a firm commitment of city urban renewable funds – funds aimed at local economic development.
City Councilor David Allen pressed County Counsel Wayne Belmont on the exact vision and what portion of city resources are being asked to apply to the project. Belmont said it was hard to say since the exact development plan is still being formulated. Allen asked if city funds were limited to just supporting infrastructure like sewer and water up to the boundaries of the project, would the whole project, as envisioned, be affected by that. Belmont said yes but inferred that the project could move ahead anyway – possibly building the project in phases.
The council asked whether the final plan would be ready by the end of the year. Belmont said no – but likely soon-after the first of the year. There will be several new city councilors coming onto the council in early January. Their views of the project have not been revealed.
After the presentation of The Commons update several citizens testified that the County Commons project is expected to run at a sizeable loss starting the first day of its opening, and if the city is involved with its Urban Renewal fund it would be bad for the city since urban renewal funds are supposed to promote economic development not just subsidize just any project. Defenders of the project contend that although the facility would be a money loser, it would be an effective magnet for drawing more visitors to the Newport area to include conventions and other special events, thereby injecting cash for restaurants, hotels, ocean-related activities and other tourism venues.
Belmont said if the city maintains a role in the creation of the Commons project, construction might begin on parts of it in about a year.
An organized group opposed to the project has vowed to put the issue on the May ballot if the county moves ahead with the project.
Hancock Timber turns down talks on ceasing herbicide spraying in Newport’s watershed
It’s an issue playing out in many states around the country – big timber companies using herbicides to prevent brush and weeds from out-competing recently planted trees.
City Manager Spencer Nebel said he notified Hancock Timber that the council doesn’t want any herbicide spraying on lands whose creeks flow into the city’s drinking water reservoir – spraying from either from aircraft or back-pack spraying on the ground. Hancock said it would not be agreeable to such a program but that they’re willing to negotiate with the city – no details provided.
The council decided to have Nebel come up with some language in a letter to Hancock that the city doesn’t want any herbicide spraying in waters that flow into the town’s reservoir. There was also discussion among the councilors and testimony from some members of the public that herbicides pose a clear and present danger to watersheds and to the people who drink water from those watershed..
Nebel said he will bring back some options at the next city council meeting.
Meanwhile environmental protection groups have gotten two bills ready to be introduced in the upcoming 2019 Oregon Legislature to give local cities and counties what amounts to home-rule, in order to protect themselves from pesticide spraying on the ground or from the air. If passed, it would reportedly trigger a constitutional amendment to the Oregon State Constitution.