GEARHART - True to form for one of Clatsop County's most hotly contested elections, narrow margins mark the preliminary victories of Dianne Widdop and Chuck Schluter.
The race for Position 1 pitted incumbent Walter Daggatt, an antiques dealer and Realtor seeking a second term, against Schluter, a tax preparer and vice-chairman of the Gearhart Planning Commission.
Schluter won with 273 votes to Daggatt's 238 votes.
In the Position 3 race, incumbent Widdop, a retail saleswoman at the gift store Fitzgerald's, sought a third term.
Her opponent was Larry Meyers, a transportation services representative for the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles and former member of the Clatsop County Planning Commission.
Widdop captured 270 votes compared to 228 votes for Meyers.
The positions were elected at-large for the five-member council. Although in campaigns the candidates discussed a variety of issues and said they hoped the election did not equate to a referendum on a single matter, residents differentiated them largely on where they stood regarding a controversial zone change request this year to allow condominiums along the first fairway of the Gearhart Golf Links.
The issue has been filed with the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Widdop had recommended against the zone change, as had Schluter on the Planning Commission. They stressed a need to more closely follow the city's comprehensive plan.
Daggatt had cast the city council's deciding vote in favor of the zone change. Like him, Meyers expressed concern about the impacts of a possible alternative - development of a motel on existing commercial property near the golf course clubhouse.
"I am so happy it's over," Schluter said this morning. "The biggest knock that my opponents had on me was that I'm a newcomer - I guess the fact that I've only been here six years makes my win a huge upset," he said.
Close votes are not new to Widdop. She had endured a recount and a special election in 1994 after two tie votes with council contender Pat Roberts.
Widdop said the election outcome may put to rest notions that opponents of the golf course zone change were only a small, vocal minority. In any event, she added, "maybe now we can put all this behind us, and get on with the city."