County Commons site up for discussion again


LINCOLN COUNTY –– A woman from local group Common Sense Lincoln County approached the board of commissioners Wednesday to read a letter from a fellow member of the group, Penelope Kaczmarek, about what Kaczmarek and the rest of Common Sense Lincoln County believes the county should do about the Lincoln County Commons.

The group, Connell read for Kaczmarek, was formed to preserve the rights of county voters and ensure county residents have a say in the best, most humane and fiscally responsible use of the county’s fairgrounds.

Kaczmarek’s concerns regarding the use of the fairgrounds centered around believing county officials haven’t yet allowed voters to decide where the fairgrounds should be or what to do with the old fairgrounds, or County Commons. According to the letter read by Connell, former county commissioners decided the current fairgrounds location is no longer a good or viable site for hosting future fairs.

“Please exercise your power to refer this important matter back to Lincoln County voters,” Connell read for Kaczmarek. “Despite our request, we have received no reply. Therefore, I am here today to ask you again, in light of the sweeping scope of this issue, are you, the commissioners, willing to refer this back to Lincoln County voters as a ballot measure in the May 2019 election?”

While the commissioners didn’t answer the question during the meeting, Board of Commissioners Chairman Doug Hunt said the question would be taken under advisement, and Connell asked if the group could receive a reply by the next board of commissioners meeting.

Despite Kaczmarek’s request that the county put the question of where to have the fairgrounds back to the voters, that question has already come up on the ballots.

“This matter has already been put out twice to the voters and approved,” said County Counsel Wayne Belmont Friday. “They voted to create funding for capital funds to spend on the project and designated the commons as the area where they want to expend money.”

The County Commons have been a hot topic among many groups in the county in recent months. In July, Newport’s urban renewal agency convened to discuss changes to the fairgrounds’ master plan.

Architects at 3J Consulting in Beaverton, which was contracted to sketch out plans for how the fairgrounds should be used, developed components of the master plan to determine the size of fairgrounds buildings, how those buildings should be used and which buildings needed to be completely rebuilt, among other aspects of the project.

Whether or not the city of Newport would contribute money to the fairgrounds was under discussion in August, with the decision to use city money to build an emergency center and transit center on the site.

The request from Common Sense Lincoln County comes just more than a week before the county’s 2018 Commons Master Plan Visioning Committee is expected to meet and discuss the future of the fairgrounds, where the board of commissioners will hear details about the current draft of the master plan.

“The county has had an ongoing process for a number of years,” Belmont said. “They’re working on this.”

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