Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont was recently back before the Newport City Council, still trying to sell the county’s plans for a rejuvenated Lincoln County Fairgrounds…now known as the Lincoln County Commons.
Envisioned are new facilities, including a convention center. Total sticker price is somewhere around $10 Million dollars, which has made some Newport city councilors wince since the county wants the city to chip in several million dollars in sewer, water and storm drain improvements to make the project viable.
The city council appears to be uncertain as to whether the project will be viable. But Belmont and his consultants contend it will be – that their final plans will reveal that in January or February.
Newport City Councilor David Allen reminded Belmont that statements have been made that no city urban renewal funds would be necessary to make the project viable – but that it appears that the assumption may not hold up. Belmont admitted the county has not finalized its master plan, but that it should be in its final form shortly after the first of the year. Belmont said construction on the new Commons could begin in the Spring of 2020.
City Councilors still appeared to be uncomfortable since Belmont couldn’t tell them exactly how much financial assistance the project would need from the city for sewer, water and storm drain improvements. Councilors reminded Belmont the city has major problems with its own aging city-wide sewer, water and storm drainage systems. In addition, they have plans to re-vitalize Newport’s main downtown commercial area. They say they’ll need a lot of urban renewal money to tackle those challenges. They wondered if there is enough money to do it all.
Another critical issue is whether the new Commons would become a boon to the community or a bust. Belmont admitted that the Commons itself would lose money every year – but with increased tourism on the coast, the community as a whole would enjoy a continuous economic boost.
The city council still wasn’t quite convinced but indicated they are willing to discuss the issue further after the first of the year.