Questions remain on Commons master plan

LINCOLN COUNTY –– County officials and members of the community are still working with consultants to hash out details of a fairgrounds master plan that so far needs tweaking. Consultants from 3J Consulting hired by the county to draft a County Commons Master Plan found discrepancies between current and past accounts of the community’s needs.

The master plan consists of a site redevelopment plan, recommended improvements to existing buildings and a business plan. At least some of the transient room tax money the county collects will pay for the new construction and renovations of new or existing buildings at the county fairgrounds. The plan also includes possible Newport Urban Renewal Agency funding, which has yet to be committed, and eventually accounts for fees that will bring in revenue from events.

Among the facets of the current master plan that sparked disagreement among committee members, the arena was thought to be too small to accommodate activities community members plan to hold there.

“The size of the arena is the one Achilles’ heel of everything I’m seeing here,” said 4-H program coordinator Todd Williver. “I would like to see it bigger than what we currently have here.”

The size and purpose of certain facilities weren’t the only concerns on the table during discussions last Thursday. Some parts of the master plan’s current draft designate facets of the project as “reserved for future development,” which bothered at least one local official.

“Does that mean we’ll figure out how to pay for it later?” asked David Allen, Newport city councilor, during the meeting. “If you’ve got some ideas for transparency purposes as to how you envision that future development being paid for, that should be part of the plan that’s put forward.”

A lot of people in the community, Allen said, are concerned with the size of the budget, especially since some facilities like the arena are downsized from the original proposal.

“For some folks, the phrase is ‘mission creep,’” Allen said. “Once you start, you’re going to keep on asking for more.”

Hard-surface areas in the plaza, a pavilion with a dirt floor, green spaces on site, a stage and new overflow parking all feature in the new construction at the fairgrounds, although those aren’t the only new facilities to be included in the plan.

Redevelopment of the county fairgrounds, according to the current draft of the master plan, will cost $9.8 million, with large chunks of the money taken up by construction of the multi-purpose building, the pavilion and permit fees. Site utilities, lighting installation, signage and landscaping work will cost around $1 million of that total.


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