THH

The Tillamook County Planning Commission continued the hearing to request conditional use approval and similar use determination to approve the installation of the Jupiter Submarine Cable System, to Nov. 14, due to a tie in planning commission member votes at the last hearing, held Oct. 24.

The Tillamook County Planning Commission voted five in favor and two opposed to authorize the similar use as requested and voted five in favor and two opposed to approve conditional use request.

The fiber optic cable system and landing site would be on a rural residential two-acre zoned property designated as tax lot 3200. The subject property is accessed via Sandlake Road, a county road, and is located within the Tierra Del Mar area north of the Pacific City/Woods Unincorporated Community. The applicant and property owner are Edge Cable Holdings, USA, LLC.

Edge, a Facebook subsidiary sought permits from Tillamook County to bring ashore the submarine fiber optic cable. Local residents were against the project, believing there would be no public benefit to Tillamook County or Tierra Del Mar.

The proposed SubCom Jupiter cable would connect to a high-capacity system with international reach, reportedly owned by Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and others. Facebook representatives said the proposed project in Tierra Del Mar would support services used around the globe, including: Indonesia, India, Japan, Hong Kong and other surrounding areas.

The planning commission had the first initial hearing on the project Sept. 5. There had been a request for continuation of the hearing. At their hearing last month, a motion was made for the similar use determination, which has to be approved before conditional use determination, but ended in a tie. The seventh commission member, Chad Allen, had been absent at that meeting.

During discussion of whether it was similar use, Sarah Absher, Director of Tillamook County Department of Community Development, asked the commission if a fiber optic cable would have the same impact as a communication tower or public facility. Planning commission member Guy Sievert said impact is only used under conditional use.

“Is similar impact not an item of criteria for similar use determination?” Sievert asked.

“We’re making a decision of similar use on a property that is prime residential,” Sievert said.

Sievert said that in this case, the commissioners have to stick to the language given to them. The commission may find a use that is similar to the use and is allowed. A transmission line is a public facility. Sievert said the cable system is not similar in use to the transmission line. Facebook claims the use is similar.

Sievert said the cable system is not needed or required and public facilities should be limited to only what is needed.

“We have to limit to only what is needed or necessary,” Sievert said.

Sievert said the project does not tie into conditional use or similar use and it is not required for health and safety of the community.

“I hope commissioners stick to the code,” Sievert said.

Planning commission member Gale Ousele made a motion on basis of staff report and testimony to find the Jupiter cable to be similar use. The motion carried five to two.

Kurt Heckeroth, chair of the planning commission, announced the second part of the decision: deciding whether it is conditional use. The motion carried five to two.

Any party with standing to appeal, may appeal this decision to the Board of County Commissioners, by filing an application for an appeal, submitting written justification supporting the appeal, and submitting the required filing fee of $250 with the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners within 12 days of the notice of the decision.

The Department has received notice of intent to appeal this decision to the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners. Public hearings will be held by the board at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9, and at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, in the Board of County Commissioners Meeting Rooms A & B of the Tillamook County Courthouse. Oral testimony will be heard at this hearing.

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(1) comment

Ed Ruttledge

In its October 24 meeting there was a motion by a Planning Commission member to consider Facebook’s project of “similar use” to an actual utility. This was a “threshold issue.” In other words, the Planning Commission had to rule in favor of the “threshold issue” in order to continue its deliberation. The vote was a tie. Under commonly accepted rules of procedure in a democracy, tie votes fail - simply as the motion was not passed by a majority. This should have ended the matter. But, no. Planning Commission Chair, Kurt Heckeroth, unilaterally determined to “continue” the hearing over to a later date. Normally, a “continuance” is voted on by the whole governing body, not a feature of dictatorial edict.

At the “continued” meeting convened on November 14, the Planning Commission conducted another vote on the very same “threshold issue.” Normally in a democracy, a second vote on the same issue requires a “motion to reconsider.” No one on the Planning Commission made any such motion. Thus, there are two votes on the record regarding the very same “threshold issue.” In one vote, the motion failed. In a second vote, driven by a autocratic process, the motion passed.

Facebook may ultimately get what it wants. Unfortunately, Tillamook County has stepped away from normal democratic procedures to give it to them.

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