All appears to be in place to build a new Chautauqua Community Center in Gearhart (CCA). If passed by voters, advocates have a 99-year lease on downtown property and a handful of deep-pocket supporters lined up to provide development funding.
Two very important aspects, however, have not been addressed. Does the CCA have a detailed business plan or vision? Are there sure sources of funding for salaries, utilities, maintenance, insurance, advertising, etc.? Will property taxes be waived for their proposed nonprofit status, if they are able to acquire that status - no easy undertaking these days?
Will the center generate income by renting its space for community activities? Scouting groups, bridge clubs, art classes, the local homeowners association, private social functions and wedding parties are seen as potential sources of income.
Does this mean that Gearhart residents will be charged to use the facilities?
Scouts, card players and artists have long been a part of the Gearhart community, but would provide little money, and we see very little community demand for a venue for private functions and wedding parties in Gearhart. As for wedding parties, where will the 100, 200 or 300 guests for a wedding reception park on a busy Saturday in downtown Gearhart? What about the noise level of music played at these receptions and the guests mingling outside the building with drinks in hand?
These activities have certainly occurred in Gearhart for years, but participants never needed a multi-million dollar facility to house their activities. We do not believe that Gearhart residents' activities will cover the cost of the CCA. Tourists and visitors will be required to cover the shortfall.
It has been suggested that the Seaside Civic and Convention Center might refer its overflow request for temporary activity spaces to the CCA. The percentage of those referrals being Gearhart locals would likely be quite small.
If Gearhart develops a community center, planning parties and weddings, more questions arise: First, how does this plan square with Gearhart's Comprehensive Plan goal of not promoting tourism? How will the CCA address parking and traffic issues it brings to our small town? If funds cannot be generated to maintain the building or support its activities, what will happen? Who will pick up the tab?
In our opinion, the challenges generated by this proposed community center are not compatible with the desired "semi-rural" character envisioned for Gearhart. In an effort to put a positive recommendation forward, we would suggest the vacant property instead be maintained as open space - planting trees, shrubs and dune grass, laying permeable paths and placing permanent monuments describing and celebrating Gearhart's unique, long and colorful history.
R.D. SMITH and JUDITH YOUNG