Guest Column

The organization chart for Pacific County government contains more than 50 "boxes," connected by lines of authority. More than half of these responsibilities funnel to our county commissioners. While we might like to think that the vital functions of county government, including the assessor, treasurer, auditor, prosecutor, clerk, judges, and sheriff are priorities, we're wrong. In difficult financial times, the Department of Community Development can sustain its "planners" while the sheriff finds it extremely difficult to put deputies on the road.

Pacific County was not required to develop a new land use ordinance. Our commissioners chose to spend money this way. Now we have a final draft of an ordinance ready for consideration and approval. It's a good example of what can be created in the vacuum of their own organization.

The negative consequences of provisions of the proposed Pacific County Land Development/Use Ordinance will be enormous. Sections pertaining to business will either send the entrepreneurs to the incorporated cities where these rules don't apply, or they will continually hurt the county economy.

As an example of the degree to which county officials are out of touch with reality, I explored the section pertaining to signs. I sought to obtain copies of all correspondence pertaining to sign complaints, but the Pacific County Department of Community Development had nothing to show me. Sweeping changes were not requested by anybody.

My next step was to apply the proposed rules to a group of signs that now exist. For my study, I chose the entire length of Bay Avenue in Ocean Park beginning at the west end and on the south side. Everyone can see them and you don't need to drive all over to do it. They include:

Anthony Garzino, Goldsmith: Sign overhangs public property and must be removed.

Kathleen O'Toole Books: Probably legal. Let's try to keep count to see how much company you have in this regard.

Ocean Park Pizza Co.: Signs are too large and too numerous.

Time for Tea: The count is now up to two legal businesses on Bay Avenue.

Lighthouse Realty: Awning doubles as a sign, so hanging over the sidewalk is clearly illegal.

Doc's Tavern: Only allowed 50 square feet of wall-mounted signs per street frontage, so get rid of a bunch. And that reader board extends more than six inches horizontally from the wall, so it needs to be raised to provide seven feet of vertical clearance at the bottom edge.

Jack's Country Store: The reader board is about double the limit of 32 square feet per side ("100 percent non-compliant" in county jargon). That illuminated sign on the north end of the building is way too large and it reaches more than 16 feet high. Window signs greater than two square feet and/or 25 percent of the window area are not allowed. More than one free-standing sign not allowed, eliminating fuel price signs. And how did you know so many years in advance that there would be a loophole in the ordinance for signs painted onto buildings? (Dirty dealing, no doubt.)

Ole's Nook: Pacific County refused to take care of its own problem and remove a publicly financed sign that was attached to a privately owned building, so the property owner took care of the problem. This mural (which also constitutes a sign and will not be allowed under the new ordinance) was erected on public property. Because there is no signage left on this defunct business, it accidentally complies with the rules.

Guelfi's West: Signs above public property are not allowed. Only one free-standing sign is allowed, and only one wall-mounted sign is permitted. You also cannot illuminate your signs with direct lighting. And you have more signs than are allowed on your building.

Bank of the Pacific: Sign is too large.

Okie's Sentry Market: Oversized reader board sign is illegally located. Window banners are oversized. Wall-mounted signs are too large. And the small sign at the top of the storefront is too high as well as being improperly lighted.

Buzy Beez: Sign location is illegal.

Joy Weber Insurance: Signs are too large and only one wall sign is allowed.

Ocean Park Lutheran Church: Sign location is illegal.

Coastal Tree Service: Off-premises sign is too large and it is improperly located.

Goodwin Residence: While the construction sign size limit is not reached, this appears to be non-conforming because there are three separate signs of the allowable type. The ordinance refers to such signs in the singular form, "it," so multiple signs are apparently illicit. (Deputy Godwin may be in an awkward position in choosing who should receive citations, unless, of course, the commissioners continue to hack the sheriff's budget)

And now for the north side of Bay Avenue, returning from east to west, which include:

Taylor Resources: Sign appears to be legal.

Ark Restaurant: Illegal location and oversized for off-premise signage.

Eastpoint Seafood: Ditto

Moby Dick Hotel and Restaurant and Charles Nelson House B&B: Signs overhanging public property, too many free-standing signs, and unacceptable illumination.

Wiegardt Tidepoint Oysters: Compliance due to no signage.

Wiegardt Studio and Gallery: Illegal sign location; multiple free-standing signs not permitted.

Ocean Bay RV Park: Illegal location and method of lighting.

Pacific Blind Cleaning: Illegal location and oversize for off-premise signage.

Weir Studio: Illegal location and multiple free-standing signs not permitted.

Whalebone House B&B: Illegal illumination of sign.

Beach House Realty: Violation of height restriction, illegal illumination, more than one wall sign not permitted, window sign too large, and sandwich board illegal on public property.

SeaTac Auto Body: Might be legal.

Mortensen Construction: Illegal location and size.

Clay Feather: Appears to be legal.

Knight's Corner (multiple occupants): Free standing sign illegally situated

Beachcomber: Oversized window sign.

Rain or Shine Yard Sale: Oversized window sign.

Rob's Barber Shop: Oversized window sign, barber pole is not high enough above grade, and anything that involves motion (i.e. the barber pole) is illegal. Ocean Park Chamber of Commerce: Wall sign and window signs are both too large.

Pro Video: The size and location of signs are illegal.

Grannie Annie's: The height and size of the sign is illegal and it cannot extend above the eave of the building.

Berry Patch: Only one wall sign is permitted on any street frontage. The size of at least one sign exceeds the fifty square foot limit, and the use of a sandwich board on the sidewalk is illegal.

Dunes Restaurant: Roof-mounted signs, illegal illumination, multiple wall signs, and total sign space regulations are all in violation.

Ocean Park Pharmacy: Three of the four wall-mounted signs must go. Ocean Park Eagles: The free-standing sign is too large and illegally lighted; the building-mounted sign violates height restriction and location, and the outdoor use of neon is prohibited.

Taylor Hotel (multiple tenants): Hotel name sign appears to be legal.

Thomas Creek Trading: Appears to be legal.

Reachout Food Bank: Wall sign and window signs exceed limits.

Sweet Williams on Bay: Free-standing sign illegally situated.

Pilot House: Sign location, quantity, size, and illumination infractions.

Ocean Park Beach Approach sign: No provision allows for community-sponsored signs in the public right-of-way.

Ocean Park Methodist Church: Location and size of off-premise sign not permitted.

Tapestry Rose/ Full Circle Cafe: Infractions of location, height, quantity, and size rules.

The commercial establishments involved in this study currently produce about $70,000 per year in local sales taxes and $350,000 in state sales taxes. Almost half of the local sales tax goes to Pacific Transit and the remainder to county coffers. A reduction in sales has the same proportionate effect upon employment, and neither is in the direction of economic improvement.

According to a recent report prepared by the Washington Research Council, businesses in our state pay 47 percent of the total tax dollars. In Oregon, Idaho, and California it's about 30 percent. Injuries to business will shift the tax burden to individuals. Even if you have no business interests here and do 100 percent of your shopping out of state, it's going to cost you.

Adding insult to injury is the method by which new rules come into being. The county, by state law, is entitled to enact rules and restrictions with little more than going through the motions of publishing notices of meetings and listening to a few malcontents (and even fewer supporters) recite personal opinions. They don't even have to let individual property owners know that new rules apply to their uses of their properties. That feature is saved for later, when a property owner is required to fill out forms, pay fees, hire professionals, wait forever, and hope that a request is approved. Whether it's government or an individual seeking a change, a sense of fairness dictates that one process should apply in both directions.

You would think that my exercise would have been an integral part of the planning process from day one. Obviously, it's not. And because Pacific County's facilities are located within the jurisdictions of cities, the rules don't apply to county-owned properties. If, for no reason other than to understand the effects of the rules they are writing, shouldn't the county officials make an effort to voluntarily comply with their own lousy rules?

The county commissioners appoint the people who drafted the proposed rules, keeping themselves out of the line of direct fire. It's the commissioners who are supposed to be providing the leadership. If they are incapable of palpating the pulse of the county, they had best check to see if we're still breathing and call for trained emergency help.

Tom Downer, Ocean Park

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