Southeast Seaside Urban Renewal Plan Underway After ORCA Testimony

Necanicum Estuary in Seaside. Courtesy Outdoor Project Contributor Tyson Gillard

The City of Seaside launched an ambitious Urban Renewal Plan for Southeast Seaside. The Plan is to be financed by tax increment revenues to repay borrowed funds. The maximum indebtedness is $68 million, and the Plan will last for twenty-five years. After that the Seaside Improvement Commission does not intend to collect tax increment revenues for the area. ORCA argued in testimony against several aspects of the Plan. Ultimately, Seaside amended the proposal, and it passed. Though not perfect, the urban renewal plan is now a workable template, though still more vague than is appropriate for an urban renewal template.

Seaside City Council developed the Plan after voters in May 2017 approved a bond measure to move the Seaside schools out of the tsunami inundation zone. Seaside Improvement Commission decided on the plan “as a partial means to help the school pay for infrastructure to the new school sites.” They also included ostensibly underdeveloped and blighted areas in the south end of Seaside. Oregon state law requires an urban renewal area be “blighted,” meaning that it must be undeveloped or underdeveloped, such as streets and utilities in poor condition, lack of utilities, or vacant or underdeveloped lots.

The Urban Renewal Area encompasses 559 acres, mostly private property. Most is inside Seaside city limits, and some is currently inside the Urban Growth Boundary. But the Plan originally also included a 32-acre forested parcel owned by Weyerhaeuser, which is outside the UGB entirely, and zoned for Forestry purposes in Clatsop County. By definition it was not “blighted” land. ORCA warned Seaside in testimony that including the Weyerhaeuser parcel was strictly illegal and would lead to litigation. City Council removed it. The remaining projects now minimally meet state requirements for showing their “feasibility”, and value for public health, safety and welfare.

The Urban Renewal Plan must conform with both the Clatsop County Comprehensive Plan and the Seaside Comprehensive Plan, which initially it did not, despite paying lip service to the Plans. Most troubling, the urban renewal plan mentioned laying sanitary sewer, storm sewer and lighting “for future growth of the properties within the UGB,” and noted there is a lack of infrastructure in areas not in the UGB. This is true, of course. Lands outside the UGB are not urbanizable and are outside Seaside’s purview. But the Seaside Comprehensive Plan requires that sewer services be extended only to areas inside city limits — that is, after annexation from the UGB has occurred. ORCA pointed this out, and Seaside City Council amended the urban renewal plan mandating that the requirement be followed.

The urban renewal plan bore every hallmark of being sloppily done, purposefully vague and rushed through a sham political process. The Planning Commission rubber-stamped it as conforming to the Seaside Comprehensive Plan without even holding a public hearing. City Council has signaled its strong support of the plan, but at the one public hearing, more than one hundred twenty people showed up to oppose it. Now, with local vigilance and oversight, it has the potential to bring important infrastructure to this side of town without ruining the livability.

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