Seaside School District
The Seaside School District rammed through plans for a new school campus without adequately considering alternative proposals, a resident said in a legal challenge submitted to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Money saved from an alternate plan could be used to provide upgrades to the city’s bridges, John Dunzer said. “I’d like to see the money that would be saved for the schools would be spent building bridges so the kids could be safe for the 71 percent of the time that they are not in school.”
In November, the county Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance amending the county’s comprehensive plan expanding Seaside’s urban growth boundary to accommodate a new campus. At that meeting, the commission declined to accept Dunzer’s submission as the record was closed.
A longtime critic of the plan to relocate Seaside’s endangered schools out of the tsunami inundation zone, Dunzer said county approval of the school district’s plan violates state planning rules requiring local government to look at all options within the existing boundaries before expansion of those boundaries.
Tom Bennett, the county’s community relations coordinator, said the county had not received the appeal.
Two sites proposed
By voting to recommend approval of the school district’s request for an expansion of the urban growth boundary, the county paved the way for rezoning 40 acres of the property and annexing an additional 49-acre portion of the property located at Seaside Heights Elementary School.
Dunzer said he thinks the relocation — at a cost of more than $100 million, to be paid by voters after passage of a 2015 bond — is unnecessary.
“They did not look at expanding the school on two sites instead of just one,” Dunzer said. “When you do that, you have the potential of saving almost over $50 million for the price of the schools. Because it is possible and quite feasible to build a junior high school right above Seaside Heights Elementary School.”
Dunzer claims in his appeal that the existing Seaside Heights Elementary School site could be used as the site of a new middle school, resulting in a “more tolerable impact on the entire east side of Seaside.”
Project moves forward
School district officials have refuted Dunzer’s comments in the past, stating that the new campus plan is the only way to provide a safe environment for students, moving out of aging, unreinforced buildings — Broadway Middle School, Gearhart Elementary School and Seaside High School — to seismically resilient buildings on higher ground.
At an August meeting, school district consultant Greg Winterowd of Winterbrook Planning said the school’s request addresses relevant criteria of statewide planning goals, the Seaside comprehensive plan and the Clatsop County comprehensive plan.
The proposed location is the only site that meets all seven city criteria, Winterowd said, and the only site with access to a major collector street, South Wahanna Road.
In adopting the boundary change in September, Seaside officials said their recommendation was “based on the assumption that the public hearing did not reveal any well-substantiated reason to consider modifying the district’s plans.”
The school district said in a response to Dunzer’s comments at the time that Dunzer “rarely cites applicable review criteria” and failed to explain why the errors he believes occurred are relevant to whether such criteria are met. Many facts are misstated, they wrote, and represent a “lack of technical knowledge.”
An October project update reported the district is moving ahead with a focus on site analysis, including ground tests and surveying, before construction is slated to begin next spring.