Voters on the North Coast in May will consider whether to repeal a countywide ordinance recognizing vacation rentals and determine the future of the Warrenton Community Library.
Ballots will also include several contested races for school boards and other local districts, although most candidates up for local seats are unopposed.
The filing deadline was Thursday. The election is May 16.
All voters in Clatsop County will be asked to consider a referendum that would make vacation rentals in nearly all unincorporated parts of the county illegal.
Measure 4-221 seeks to overturn an ordinance approved by the county Board of Commissioners last summer that recognized vacation rentals as an outright use in 16 unincorporated zones in the development code.
Up until that point, the county said it was issuing permits for vacation rentals in those areas in error, since the use had not been added to the development code when the county began regulating vacation rentals.
A group of residents, primarily from the wealthy enclave of Cove Beach and the gated community of Surf Pines, organized under the name North Coast Neighbors United and collected enough signatures last year to refer the ordinance to voters.
If the referendum is successful, the ordinance will be repealed, and the more than 100 vacation rentals outside of Arch Cape would gradually disappear as licenses expire. If the referendum fails, the county could move forward with recognizing vacation rentals as an allowed use.
Meanwhile, the referendum is facing a legal challenge by Everyone For The North Oregon Coast, which was formed last year to support the rights of vacation rental owners.
The group filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court earlier this month asking a judge to remove the referendum from the May ballot.
The suit argues that the referendum is unlawful because North Coast Neighbors United failed to go through the proper channels to appeal land use decisions.
In Warrenton, the future of the library will be before voters.
Measure 4-222 would extend the existing tax rate — 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value — of a five-year operations levy.
Voters in the November election narrowly rejected a 5-cent increase to the tax rate, which was intended for boosting staffing, hours, community programs and more to the library on S. Main Avenue.
But given that the library is entirely supported by revenue from the levy, which is set to expire in June, the 51% to 49% failure at the ballot box threatens the library’s existence.
While there appeared to be no organized opposition to the levy prior to the November election, word-of-mouth feedback collected by the city showed that some voters thought another increase came too soon after a large increase to the tax rate of the levy five years ago. Others disapproved of taxes altogether, while some were unclear about the ramifications of the levy.
The library board hopes that approaching the May election with a clearer message will win voters over.
If the levy fails again, the city may have to consider shutting down the library, running the library entirely with volunteers or explore other cost-cutting options.
Josh Saranpaa, the former executive director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast, took over as library director — the facility’s only full-time position — last month.
The Clatsop Care Health District is also looking to extend a five-year levy, which will continue to fund operations at three long-term care facilities in Astoria and Warrenton, as well as an in-home care agency. The health district will look to make improvements to buildings with the revenue.
The Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Protection District will ask voters for a 25-cent increase to the tax rate — up to $1.15 per $1,000 of assessed property value — of a five-year levy. The funds will help maintain emergency services, replace equipment and support administrative and other personnel.
At Clastop Community College, Marc Gendelman, the director of rehabilitation services at Ocean Beach Hospital, will compete against Ed Johnson, a farmer from Brownsmead, for Zone 1, Position 1 on the board. Johnson has chaired the Knappa School District Board for a number of years.
On the Port of Astoria Commission, Commissioner Robert Stevens, a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain, will face John Lansing, a retired businessman who serves on the Port’s budget and finance committees, in Position 4. Stevens was appointed to the commission in 2017 and won election in 2019.
The Astoria School District Board will feature a contested race in Position 2 between Heidi Wintermute, a school psychologist and the chairwoman of the board, and John Brackeen. Wintermute was elected in 2019.
In Position 1 on the Warrenton-Hammond School District Board, Tabbitha McGrorty, a salon owner appointed to the school board earlier this year, will face Morris Guiendon, a pastor who works with home-schooled students. McGrorty replaced Debbie Morrow, who vacated the position after she was indicted for theft and forgery charges related to several roles in the region.
Three candidates will vie for Position 5 in Warrenton. Dalan Moss, a school board member who leads the nonprofit NW Community Alliance in Warrenton, will face Guillermo Romero, a social services worker specializing in child welfare, and Mark Simonsen, a former fire chief in Hammond.
Moss has served on the school board since 2015. Simonsen previously served on the school board. Romero serves on the Sunset Empire Transportation District Board.
In the Jewell School District, Ginger Kaczenski, a school board member and ranch owner, will compete against Ryan Dietrich for Position 1. Kaczenski has held the role for 12 years.
Cecilia LaBar-Mialon, a parent who has been an active voice at school board meetings, will face Patricia Drew, a former employee in the school district who retired in 2006, in Position 3.
Seats on school boards in Seaside and Knappa all have candidates who are unopposed.
The Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District and Sunset Empire Transportation District boards also have candidates who are unopposed.
There are contested races for several water district boards, including in the Arch Cape Domestic Water Supply District.
In Arch Cape, Nadia Gardner, a board member and conservation consultant, and Sam Garrison, a business consultant, will compete for Position 5.