8A • March 6, 2015 • Seaside Signal • seasidesignal.com Sales tax overwhelmingly turned down in survey Poll asks businesses if center should expand By Katherine Lacaze Seaside Signal A majority of Seaside Chamber of Commerce and Seaside Downtown Devel- opment Association mem- bers do not support a local tax on food and retail sales to fund a Seaside Civic and Convention Center expan- sion, and some don’t support the $25 million expansion at all, according to a survey. The Seaside Civic and Convention Center staff re- cently conducted a survey among 60 association mem- bers and 101 chamber mem- bers. Of the 161 respondents from both organizations, 85 percent said they do not sup- port the creation of a busi- ness improvement district, or sales tax, on food and retail sales, one of three funding sources suggested in a study by C.H. Johnson Consulting completed last year. Seven percent said they would sup- port a sales tax and 8 percent said they might support it. The second question on the survey asked if respon- dents support increasing the transient room tax, or lodg- ing/bed tax, as a funding source. Of the 161 respon- dents, 57 percent said no, 28 percent said yes and 15 per- cent said maybe. When it came to the third funding option, the devel- opment of a countywide alliance with Astoria, Can- non Beach and Seaside, 50 percent said no, 33 percent said yes and 17 percent said maybe. Finally, respondents were asked, all funding sourc- es and costs aside, if they still supported the idea of expanding the convention center. Forty-four percent of respondents said no, 26 percents said yes, 6 percent said they were not sure and 24 percent said maybe. “I was surprised,” said Russ Vandenberg, general manager of the convention center. “I had not anticipat- ed that 44 percent would not support an expansion at all.” The survey was conduct- ed following two presen- tations Vandenberg made to the Seaside Chamber of Commerce and the Seaside Downtown Development Association. In those pre- sentations, he outlined the WKUHH RSWLRQV IRU ¿QDQF- ing the convention center expansion as well as a $6 million, multi-level park- ing structure. The monthly payment required to retire the $31 million debt would be $220,000 a month for 30 years. The survey also included a comment section, and Van- denberg said they received numerous comments. The biggest takeaway from the comments, which were not available yet, Vandenberg said, was that “this town doesn’t want any sales tax.” “They thought it would harm their business, or peo- ple would travel outside (the city) to shop,” he said. Other comments sug- gested the town does not have the infrastructure, such as parking and roads, WR KDQGOH D VLJQL¿FDQW LQ- crease in visitors in the downtown area. According to the survey, the expansion would allow the convention center to bring groups of 500 to 600 to town. Some people indicated they simply like Seaside’s small-town feel and believe the expansion might harm that, Vandenberg said. The construction alone would take about a year, and some of the chamber and association members expressed fear about how that might negatively impact their businesses. “They like things the way they are,” Vandenberg said. The Seaside Downtown Development Association Board has already voted to oppose a sales tax, accord- ing to Tita Montero, SDDA executive director. A link to the survey re- sults was sent to both the chamber and association. The expansion committee will discuss the results be- fore bringing recommen- dations to the Seaside Civ- ic and Convention Center Commission. Sometime in the next few months, the FRPPLVVLRQZLOOEULQJD¿- nal recommendation before Seaside City Council to consider. Steer a straight course KATHERINE LACAZE PHOTO Frank Rendon, owner of Legendary Longhorns out of Sweet Home, sits atop his celebrity steer, Showgun, outside of the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. Rendon and his right-hand man Justin Wambach (not pictured) were in town with their steers, to promote Legendary Longhorns at the Oregon Festival & Events Conference hosted at the convention center last week- end. Rendon and Wambach take the steers to rodeos, fairs and other events across Oregon and Washington. Timber project raises concerns about public process Local agencies offer help to develop a management plan for the city’s watershed By Katherine Lacaze Seaside Signal The city is moving ahead with a timber harvesting project on its property in the Necanicum Watershed with little input from the Neca- nicum Watershed Council, North Coast Land Conser- vancy and the public. Despite a request by the land conservancy that the city temporarily halt its harvest to discuss harvest- ing alternatives, the Seaside City Council decided at its Feb. 23 meeting to honor its contract and continue the harvest. “We’re already in mid- stream,” said Councilor Dana Phillips. The city is clear-cutting about 60 acres of timber from its South Fork Neca- nicum Watershed property. The timber sale proceeds will be used to acquire more watershed property, according to city staff. /RJJLQJFUHZVKDYH¿Q- ished about 24 acres, and Public Works Director Neal Wallace told the council there would be costs as- sociated with not moving forward. The city invested about $12,000 in seedlings to replant in the clear-cut areas, and the logging crew also expects a certain vol- ume of trees as part of its payment. “If we put this on hold for right now, this job is pretty much done,” Wallace said. The logging company, Berlog, of Clatskanie, and forester Mark Dreyer, own- er of Lone Cedar Consult- ing and the city’s consulting forester since 2006, would not wait a month while a discussion occurred, Wal- lace said. Project concerns At the council’s meeting Feb. 9, the Necanicum Wa- tershed Council also asked the City Council to recon- sider approving the project. Melyssa Graeper, coordina- tor for the council, read a letter from the organization. Noting that the water- shed council has contrib- uted over $2 million in conservation funds to the community to address envi- ronmental and other issues, the letter expressed concern that the city, “a designated ‘Tree City, USA,’ is quick- ly moving ahead on a tim- ber harvest in the watershed with little public process, including allowing the wa- tershed council to provide the input it was asked for.” The project was listed on the agenda for the Dec. 8 City Council meeting under new business and solely as a presentation by Wallace. After a roughly 10-minute presentation, which includ- ed comments from Dreyer, the board voted unanimous- ly to approve taking the project to bid. The project was not taken to bid, how- ever. Administrative Assis- tant Kim Jordan said the motion was misstated, and the City Council “knew at that meeting there was not going to be a bid.” Rather, Jordan said, the council meant to only ap- prove the project. Council- or Don Johnson, who made the motion, agreed that the council “intended” to au- thorize city staff to proceed with the project. ‘If we put this on hold for right now, this job is pretty much done’ Public Works Director Neal Wallace If the project had gone to bid, it would have been pro- posed by resolution, which would have required a pub- lic comment period. When asked why the project did not have to go to bid, Wallace responded, “When we hired the forest manager we turned over the operation to him. “He reviews the logger’s information and makes the decision/recommenda- tion on behalf of the city,” Wallace said. “The council approved the forester’s rec- ommendation.” There is no record of the council approving the rec- ommendation to hire Ber- log; only Dreyer’s initial description of the project is on the record. In addition, the public was not given an opportuni- ty at the December meeting to comment on the project before the motion was ap- proved. “It’s disappointing,” Graeper said. “It feels like they’re not being transpar- ent when they should be or could be.” Wallace planned to meet with the Necanicum Wa- tershed Council in January to discuss the project but did not because a personal matter prevented him from doing so. The watershed council discussed the proj- ect on its own. Regardless, Graeper said, it would have been too late to offer input because the city already had approved the project and signed a contract. “We weren’t offered the opportunity to respond be- fore decisions were made,” she said. The North Coast Land Conservancy was not of- fered the opportunity either, Executive Director Katie Voelke said. “When we heard of the plan, we approached the city to offer our services,” she said, adding that she learned of the project from a January newspaper article. “Watershed-based land acquisition is the charitable service that we provide as a land trust,” Voelke said. If the city creates a steward- ship plan, it’s possible to receive grants to purchase more land, she added. Graeper said the situa- tion has raised some ques- tions about the public pro- cess regarding city projects and where there is room in the system for feedback. “Moving forward I want to understand the city’s pro- cess and be a part of it,” she said. The watershed council members decided unan- imously at their January meeting that they “opposed the city’s intent to harvest its watershed,” Graeper said. According to the water- shed council, the harvest was not the city’s only op- tion to bring in revenue to purchase land; the council suggested other options such as grants, carbon cred- its, increasing the transient lodging tax, increasing wa- ter rates or a bond measure. The watershed council asked why the city should own more land if it isn’t going to manage its munic- ipal water supply watershed any differently than what’s minimally required by law under the Forest Practices Act. “The city has something special in their ownership of the South Fork Necani- cum watershed,” the letter VWDWHG ³:KHQ WKH EHQH¿WV are so minimal, and risk so great, it makes good sense to slow down and carefully plan out your management strategy.” Protecting the watershed The watershed council also asked the City Council to revisit its forest manage- ment plan. At the Decem- ber City Council meeting, when Councilor Don John- son asked if the timber har- YHVW ¿WV ZLWKLQ WKH IRUHVW management plan, Wallace said the plan was “very loosely put together” and only existed to manage the watershed and water quali- ty and production. Wallace said later he was referring to the water con- servation and management plan because he and sever- al other city staff members were not aware a forest, or rather timber, management plan existed until Wallace searched the archives re- cently. The city’s timber management plan has not been updated since 1983. The watershed council’s letter admonished the city for its lack of attention to the management plan. It should not be a “one-time thought,” but a living plan ZLWK VSHFL¿F VKRUWWHUP activities leading to well thought out, long-term goals, the letter said. “To know that decisions are being made based on an old and loosely put together plan is disheartening to say the least,” the letter added. Because the timber har- vesting project is underway, Graeper and Voelke said their organizations want to help the city develop a comprehensive watershed protection plan to guide fu- ture decisions. The watershed council, Graeper said, could offer the city technical assistance and possibly funds to cre- ate a comprehensive wa- tershed protection plan. At the March 9 City Council meeting, both organizations will propose how, through partnerships, the city and various stakeholders might go through a watershed pro- tection planning process. “Regardless of what is happening now, that’s still a really good idea,” Voel- ke said. “We just want to support the city’s ability to make decisions about the watershed in the context of the big picture.” Get your remodel rolling today. 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