Zoning code revisions generate some debate on community's future path

LONG BEACH - The first Wednesday night Long Beach City Council meeting on Nov. 3, attracted a sizable crowd. The three-hour meeting covered a range of topics, from revisions to the city zoning code to Lewis and Clark signature events.

But the hottest topic of the evening was naming the region Cape Columbia. Most of the audience stayed through the entire three-hour meeting for a chance to hear a presentation by Tom Downer and talk to the city council about the proposal.

The first item on the agenda was a public hearing on the subjects of a property tax levy for 2005 and revisions to the zoning code. The property tax levy generated little discussion, and was approved.

The revisions to the zoning code prompted a little more debate.

"Most of these changes are housekeeping changes," said Interim Community Development Director Michael Davolio.

Some of the changes are to ensure the zoning code complies with state law. For instance, according to a recently passed state law, manufactured or prefabricated homes must be treated the same as on-site built homes. So language applied only to manufactured homes has been revised.

Davolio said there would be no changes to the zoning map or permitted densities and any such changes would require a review of the city's comprehensive plan.

Several members of the community, including Gary Baker, Leslie Brophy and Don McDaniel, asked questions and expressed concerns about the changes.

"We appreciate everybody's comments," said council member Ralph Moore.

Davolio reminded everyone that the hearing was just one of the first steps in revising the code, and no recommendations had been made by the planning commission at that point. The public hearing on the zoning code was continued to the Dec. 1, city council meeting. Davolio said that no final action could be taken on finalizing the changes until next year because the state still would have to review the changes.

Next on the agenda was a presentation on the Corps of Discovery II exhibit that will be arriving in the area next year at this time for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Lauren Danner, bicentennial coordinator for the Washington State Historical Society. "It's a great exhibit."

Danner described the exhibit as "basically a national park on wheels." It is housed in a trailer truck, which can be driven to various cities. Once at a location, the truck contains all the material needed to set up the exhibit, including tents, displays, a sound system and a stage. The truck can power the entire exhibit with its own generator.

She said the Corps of Discovery II exhibit would be an economic boost for the area, since it will arrive in the off-season, and many would like to celebrate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial at culmination of the Corp's journey, the Pacific Ocean.

"It will generate an awful lot of activity for this area," she said. "People are saving their vacation miles for here."

She handed out commemorative posters to the city council and the audience to conclude her presentation.

Next Tom Downer stepped up to the podium.

"The name of the Peninsula has been a matter of a whole lot of history," he said. "I like to think of it as amusing history."

He said the Peninsula has never been officially named. As a result, he said, "we have manufactured ourselves an identity problem."

He proposed the area be officially named Cape Columbia. He said the current unofficial title, Long Beach Peninsula, causes confusion with Long Beach, Calif. He also said the name Cape Columbia would be more inclusive for other cities, such as Chinook and Ocean Park, in the area and would help promote economic opportunities and lay to rest some old rivalries.

"You can be accurate with North Beach Peninsula, you can be popular with Long Beach Peninsula. You can be effective with neither," he said.

But the proposal raised some questions and concerns from the city council. Council member Fred Cook was concerned because the area has spent 40 years establishing name recognition for Long Beach Peninsula. City Administrator Robert Strope wondered about signs along I-5 which direct drivers to the area. Mayor Ken Ramsey wanted to know what would happen if the name was adopted. He suggested the region had to unite, ending old rivalries and grudges, before an official name should be considered.

Several members of the audience also spoke about the proposals. Many supported adopting the official name of Cape Columbia.

"Let's put this place on the map, because we're not," said Donald Parsons.

Kurt Stevens, an Ocean Park resort owner, said the current name gives the city of Long Beach an unfair economic advantage over the other cities further north. "That's why it's divisive," he said.

He also said the Internet was becoming more important for attracting tourists, and Web searches invariably led people to sites related to California or New York Long Beaches.

Strope then suggested hiring a marketing professional to study the consequences of adopting the name Cape Columbia. Downer volunteered to form a committee and find an expert.

"There are tons of experts out there, and 99.9 percent of them are useless," he said.

Ross Glasson was one of the few audience members who opposed the new name.

"It seems like 90 percent of these people are from Ocean Park," he said. "Just leave it lay."

Everyone did agree that more discussions and community input was needed before a decision was reached.

"This is obviously a bit of a passionate issue," said council member Cook.

There is still plenty of time for the community to let city hall and Pacific County commissioners know how they feel. The Washington Board of Geographic Names will not consider the issue until their next meeting in March. The earliest any official naming could take place is in October of 2005.

Meanwhile, people are encouraged to send letters to Long Beach City Hall, P.O. Box 310, Long Beach, WA. 98631, with their thoughts on the debate.

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