BROOKINGS GIVES COLD SHOULDER TO PLAN

August 22, 2001 12:00 am

Gold Beach may want to be more like Brookings economically, but Brookings was not impressed with much of what was put into the Curry County Strategic Economic Development Plan by Gold Beach and Port Orford.

At Monday nights meeting on the plan in Brookings, 13 civic and business leaders asked that much of the language used for goals and indicators in the plan be changed or deleted.

Before that happened, however, the leaders spent an hour and a half getting through the preliminaries.

The meeting was facilitated by Scot Domergue of Rural Development Initiatives, which is guiding the county in developing its plan.

Domergue attempted to read through what the other communities had come up with so far, a task which took about 15 minutes at the Gold Beach meeting, but was repeatedly interrupted by Brookings citizens objecting to the language.

Much of the first half of the meeting instead focused on the feelings of many civic leaders that Brookings hadnt had much input on the plan.

Worse, said the leaders, the first strategy session for the plan will be held in Wedderburn Saturday, the day of the annual Brookings City Picnic.

During the break, Domergue admitted he was concerned about Brookings lack of participation. He said few Brookings citizens had attended any of the meetings since April.

Domergue said he would speak with Curry County Commissioner Marlyn Schafer about ways to include Brookings.

He said every part of the county must be in on the plan if it is to succeed.

The language of the goals and indicators will be massaged one last time at Saturdays meeting, then members of the core group will learn how to strategize to work toward those goals.

Thats when this becomes real, said Domergue.

Anyone is welcome to join the meeting, which will be held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Curry County Human Services Building across the bridge from Gold Beach. The building is also known as the Knox building or the old Forest Service building.

From Brookings, Don Mitchell, Nancy Shute and Linda Brown will attend, but they would welcome help in representing their towns views.

Mitchell, owner of Flora Pacifica in Harbor, was not impressed with the goals and indicators that came out of the meetings in Port Orford and Gold Beach.

Im concerned this document is not worth much as far as creating jobs in Curry County, he said.

Les Cohen, executive director of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, was one of the few Brookings representatives to attend the June 23 meeting where the goals and indicators were first formulated.

He said that meeting displayed the same divisions of interest between the three communities as usual.

Domergue said Schafer would like to see some strategies developed for the entire county, and some for specific cities.

He said elements that seem popular in all parts of the county include improved telecommunications and countywide marketing.

He said each area in the county would have to respect the different priorities and values of the other areas to make the plan work.

Im aware of the tensions, said Domergue, but if you allow people with different ideas to realize some goals in areas that are important to them, they will allow you to realize some goals important to you.

He said if Brookings leaders insisted on writing the plan the way they wanted, it wouldnt accomplish much.

The leaders appeared willing to take that risk. At one point when Domergue was trying to explain what Gold Beach citizens were thinking when they wrote an indicator, Brookings Mayor Bob Hagbom said, Are you going to listen to us, or do we have to listen to you?

Domergue told them it was their meeting and he would listen.

Those attending made up for a slow start by rapidly rewriting much of what had gone before.

One goal they left untouched was in the economy and business category. It said Curry County would have a diverse, stable economy countywide with no distressed areas, while maintaining its quality of life.

The Brookings contingent took exception to the wording for many of that goals indicators, however.

One indicator was that half of family incomes in Curry County would be at least at the state average.

City Councilor Rick Dentino wanted to simplify that to read: maximize incomes.

Shute said the indicator calling for no economically distressed areas was redundant because it was already stated in the goal. After some disagreement over that, it was decided the indicator could stay, but was not needed.

Cherie Mitchell said it was also nebulous. She didnt know if areas referred to geographic areas or something else.

City Manager Leroy Blodgett felt the indicator that tourism would grow every year, but decrease as a percentage of the overall economy, sounded too negative. He wanted it to say that the economy would continue to grow every year.

Brown wondered if the economy should also diversify. Blodgett said that was more of a strategy.

Cohen wanted to add an indicator about improving telecommunications and infrastructure. Blodgett said it could be worded necessary infrastructure to promote economic development.

Don Mitchell wanted to encourage agricultural pursuits in areas zoned for that purpose. He said people moving next to those operations may have to put up with some spray and dust.

Domergue said that was a strategy, not an indicator or goal. Among Mitchells other ideas were encouraging aquaculture, making room for creative entrepreneurs who could develop solar, wind or wave power, and encouraging artists. Blodgett said all those were strategies.

The second category in the plan was human and community relationships, education and workforce development.

One goal was that Curry County would be a nurturing and safe place. One indicator was that abuse of all kinds would not be tolerated.

Blodgett felt the indicator was redundant and also a negative statement. He preferred combining it with another indicator, crime is decreasing to read that crime and abuse would continue to decrease.

Two of the indicators said communities and individuals would be supportive of each other. Shute wanted one eliminated as redundant.

The third category in the plan was environment/public lands, community facilities and services, infrastructure and government.

The first goal was that Curry County would be a conscientious steward of its natural environment. Cherie Mitchell said, given that goal, the indicator natural resources are conserved and utilized in an environmentally sound manner was redundant.

County Commissioner Lucie La Bont said natural resources meant things like fishing and forestry.

County Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf said that indicator came out of the North county, where some people felt they were being locked out of public lands.

Domergue suggested again, If it doesnt damage what you want to happen, leave in the redundant things others wanted.

Don Mitchell wanted the goal changed to all public lands and waterways are responsibly managed. An indicator of that, he said, would be maintaining the esthetic quality of the scenic byways. That could mean cutting trees to preserve ocean views.

Blodgett wanted the indicator water, air and night skies are pure and protected, without jeopardizing safety eliminated.

Cherie Mitchell asked people to consider what potential investors would think if they read something like that.

La Bont took the opposite approach and said she didnt buy a home in Gold Beach because she couldnt see the stars from there. She said new street lighting technology is out there for towns that want to use it.

Blodgett said that was municipal policy, not something that should be in the county economic development plan. Schafer said she had the same concerns. Blodgett suggested the indicator be removed as far as it applied to Brookings. He also asked that the word environmentally be removed from natural resources are conserved and utilized in an environmentally sound manner.

Domergue cautioned again, Think about what youll do if groups Saturday want to eliminate something you wanted.

La Bont said the plan is supposed to be inclusive of everything in Curry County.

Don Tilton said the word environmentally sets up a fight.

The goal that Curry County would be a center for health and well-being had only one indicator: There is an increase in availability of health, human and social services and a decrease in negatives.

Blodgett wanted the words, decrease in negatives eliminated.

Cherie Mitchell wanted to eliminate the third goal which read: Curry County possesses the necessary infrastructure and appropriate governance for realizing health and well-being and maintaining its natural environment and stewardship.