Land intended for Seaside School District’s new campus moved a step closer to development.
Educators, consultants and city officials joined in speaking on behalf of a zone change that would pave the way for the new campus site.
The school district went before the City Council requesting a 49-acre expansion of the urban growth boundary to provide a suitable site for a school district campus above the tsunami inundation zone.
According to a report delivered by the district consultant, Winterbrook Planning, the reason for the amendment and related comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance changes is to provide for the safety of district students and staff by moving its three remaining outdated schools — Seaside High School, Broadway Middle School and Gearhart Elementary School — out of the tsunami inundation zone to relatively flat and stable ground.
“The decision to move the schools to higher ground is supported by major seismic events, state programs and hazard studies over the past two decades,” consultant Greg Winterowd wrote.
The proposal would change the county forest land to a new zoning designation, institutional campus. An additional 40 acres of land already within the city would be rezoned from low-density residential to institutional campus.
A long road
In 2010, after the district determined there were no suitable sites for a new school campus within the Seaside urban growth boundary, the City Council voted to amend the comprehensive plan to include siting criteria for schools and hospitals.
Four Oregon high schools sit within the tsunami inundation zone, three of them in the Seaside School District, former Superintendent Doug Dougherty said. The fourth is Neah-Kah-nie High School in Rockaway Beach.
A bond to finance a new Seaside campus failed in 2013, but a second vote last November was approved by voters by a 2-1 margin.
Visitors at Monday night’s public hearing pointed to advantages of the new campus, including exposure to a natural environment and forested areas.
“Our community is extremely fortunate to live in an area where there are so many outdoor learning opportunities, and this campus is ideally situated to maximize contact with the outdoors,” Seaside School District Business Manager Justine Hill said.
Seaside High School Principal Jeff Roberts said the district has “come up with a solution that best meets community needs as expressed in the Seaside zoning ordinance.”
Concerns included preserving the water quality of nearby streams and disposition of the district’s old school buildings.
Seaside resident John Dunzer said the district’s money would be better spent on fixing bridges and upgrading the city’s existing school facilities. He said public impact was lacking and district cost estimates were inaccurate.
Patrick Wingard of the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development sought additional limitations on the use of vacated school sites.
Planning Commissioner Bill Carpenter asked councilors to consider traffic impacts on Spruce Drive and Wahanna, and emergency access to the campus.
“A lot of it will come down to the development application,” transportation consultant Will Farley said. “They will look at what the immediate impact of the school will be.”
More detailed site plans showing buildings, athletic fields and parking will be provided at that time.
A ‘tight partnership’
In discussion, Councilor Steve Wright said the will of the voters who approved the measure should be considered.
The expansion of the urban growth boundary to accommodate the campus also meets city goals, he said.
“I’m very much in support of this,” Mayor Jay Barber said. “This is the first step. This is not annexation. Water, sewer — all those things have to be determined. Without this, we can’t go ahead and address these things.”
Barber, along with councilors Dana Phillips, Randy Frank, Seth Morrisey, Tom Horning, Tita Montero and Steve Wright, voted to approve the district’s request.
The county must still review the zoning changes and amend its comprehensive plan to recognize the new zone.
The adopted amendments will be incorporated into formal changes to the comprehensive plan, zoning ordinances and zoning map.
Annexation of the 49 acres will follow approval of the county and adoption of the city’s administrative rules.
“We’ve already been working in tight partnership with the city,” Dougherty said after the meeting. “We’ll be even closer now in identifying everything that needs to be done, with all the facility components.”