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ATV town driving plan draws opposition at Winchester Bay meeting

WINCHESTER BAY — Residents of Winchester Bay voiced concerns Monday about noise, traffic safety and lowered property values if ATV traffic moves off the dunes and into town.

More than 100 people packed the Marina Activity Center at Winchester RV Resort Monday for what was billed as an open house, but turned into a town hall style meeting over the county government’s proposal to allow ATVs on county roads downtown.

The meeting was led by Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice, who heard from community residents, business owners and fire officials, along with ATV riders and DuneFest organizers.

Some who spoke Monday suggested revisions to the plan, such as limiting the hours from the proposed 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to starting later and finishing earlier. Others suggested limiting town access to utility terrain vehicles, or UTVs, two- and four-seat side-by-side vehicles, which are larger and more car-like than other ATVs.

Boice said most other types of ATVs wouldn’t be brought into town anyway, since smaller vehicles riding on the dunes generally have paddle tires that would be damaged on pavement.

Boice said it was really the community’s decision to make.

“When we were asked if this was something we would be interested in, what we hoped would happen was that you guys as a community would have an opinion about this that would be solidly one way or another, that you would recognize that this was really your decision to make. It’s for your community. Our hope is it would make Winchester Bay a destination point for people who are going to come in here and spend lots of money,” he said.

Even with the suggested changes, though, the majority remained opposed when Boice asked for a show of hands.

Business owners who spoke Monday gave mixed reviews of the plan. The owner of a local motel said her business would benefit, but Mark Bedard of Bedrock’s Pizzeria said he would oppose the plan even if it brought his business more money.

“Nobody would profit more than me, but I am not the type of person that wants to put a Benjamin Franklin ahead of quality of life issues for my neighbors, for my community,” Bedard said.

Tatiana Resetnikov said she believes most residents would not have moved to Winchester Bay if the ordinance was already in place. She questioned the motives behind the proposal and said she wanted to bring a class action lawsuit to oppose it.

“No one’s asking us, the people who moved here for the quiet fishing village atmosphere that we have,” she said.

Fire officials spoke out against the plan, saying it would endanger community residents and first responders.

Eric Boe, president of the Winchester Bay Rural Fire Protection District Board, said allowing ATVs would directly impact his property values, and that the suggested 93 decibel noise limit is higher than the 85 decibel level above which hearing protection is needed.

Boe also said for safety rules to be effective, there would have to be effective enforcement. He said he doesn’t think that’s possible, and that there is an element of lawlessness among ATVers.

Winchester Bay Fire Chief Scott Anderson said having ATVs on the roadway scares the heck out of him, and that keeping ATVs and cars separate is key to safety.

“I can tell you that the present separation that we have between the ATVs and the roadway, where they run down the trails, they run out onto the dunes, has worked,” he said. “I went back over our records and I do not see a significant incident, even though there have been some close calls.”

Lakeside Mayor James Edwards told The News-Review after the meeting that a similar proposal was being considered in his town, but that most of the about 50 people who turned out for a town hall there were in favor of the idea. He said they believed the change would raise their property values.

Erik Benson, who helps organize DuneFest, said the noise wouldn’t be any worse than that of having motorcycles in town. Benson also said it would be good for business, and that it could keep the community from dying. And he suggested that there’s already a move statewide toward making side-by-sides street legal, so the two sides should find a way to work together.

ATV enthusiast Michelle Phelps objected to the negative characterization of ATVers, especially those who drive UTVs.

“When somebody purchases a $20,000 to $30,000 UTV and takes it over here, they’re not a lawless crowd,” she said.

Orquesta Akokan kicks of Music on the Half Shell with mambo music and dancing

Ava Lazur, 7, and her siblings danced and popped bubbles while her parents, Emily and John Lazur, lounged on a picnic blanket where they waited for Orquesta Akokan on Tuesday night for the kickoff of Music on the Half Shell concert series at Nichols Band Shell at Stewart Park.

“I get to dance and do cartwheels, and it sounds good,” Ava said.

Emily Lazur said Ava started asking about the annual concert series on the last day of school.

“She knows on the last day of school, Music on the Half Shell is coming,” Lazur said. “We hope to keep coming for years and years. They’re always good picks. You can never go wrong. It opens you up to different kinds of music.”

The eight-week series started Tuesday with the Cuban mambo band, which was a big lure for friends Craig Einhorn and Adam Kreindel from Eugene.

“I love international flavors of all kinds,” Kreindel said. “I love the diversity. This feels like community, what the backbone of what America was built on. The community is getting together and it’s not about capitalism.”

Einhorn plays classical guitar and lived in Argentina for six years. He has been coming to a few concerts every year for about 12 years.

“Music is a higher level of communication,” Einhorn said. “We are all experiencing this music together and it unites the community. Music communicates things we can’t communicate with words. It’s a feeling that we’re all experiencing simultaneously. Politics will divide the country, music will unite the country.”

The high energy mambo music kept people like Katie Cohen from Azalea dancing with her hula hoops that she willingly shared with anyone who asked.

“I am spreading the hoop love,” Cohen said. “They’ve got a great dance rhythm and great energy. Getting to hoop with live music is just incredible.”

She only got to go to two concerts last year, but is planning on coming to all eight concerts this year.

“I love the Half Shell and I plan on being here every week with hoops for anyone who wants to hoop jam,” Cohen said. “It obviously brings a lot of happiness to a lot of people here.”

The Music on the Half Shell series will be at 7 p.m. every Tuesday until Aug. 6. The Bill Frisell Trio will take the stage next week.

Mike Henneke/News-Review photos  

Firefighters monitor a practice burn on Reservoir Hill on Monday as part of a wildland fire training involving multiple agencies. The exercise will continue Wednesday and Friday with practice fires scheduled twice a day on city-owned property.

Winston residents debate marijuana dispensaries at City Council workshop

Winston residents are still divided on whether or not the city should allow marijuana dispensaries.

About 15 people showed up to a City Council workshop Monday to discuss whether or not the city should change regulations that have prevented dispensaries from opening in Winston since recreational marijuana was legalized statewide in 2015.

The city held the workshop to explore potential revenue sources that wouldn’t be a tax on all citizens, according to City Manager Mark Bauer. In April, the city adopted a $3 monthly public safety fee to help pay for three new police vehicles. City officials said the police department desperately needed the vehicles, and the fee was the best way to make funds available.

“What other activities out there can we raise money from via taxes other than taxing our own citizens for it,” Bauer said. “So the only one that could be is a commodity tax like marijuana.”

After recreational marijuana was legalized, Winston didn’t ban the product like many local governments around the state did. Instead, the city implemented more stringent restrictions than the state.

Oregon law requires marijuana shops to be in a commercial zone and at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and other dispensaries. Winston requires them to be 500 feet from churches and 200 feet from residential and parks/public reserve zoned property.

Bauer said if the city’s regulations were lifted, properties would become available for marijuana businesses, but the city hasn’t determined exactly how many. He said each marijuana shop could generate between $20,000-$40,000 per year in tax revenue for the city.

City Councilor Dave Cunningham said someone has expressed interest in opening a dispensary in Winston.

About an equal number of supporters and opponents of changing the city’s regulations addressed the City Council at the workshop. Supporters talked about the potential economic benefits to the city, while opponents said dispensaries would negatively impact citizens’ health and they would hurt the city’s family-friendly aesthetic.

Christie Glen-Knutson, a former Winston city councilor, said state laws adequately regulate dispensaries, and the city is missing out on revenue other towns in area are receiving.

“Winston is shorting themselves,” Glen-Knutson said. “It’s time to take prohibition off of marijuana. You don’t see people outside smoking a joint. People who use this are usually on their own front porches or inside their own homes.”

Nanci Staples asked city staff what impact marijuana being sold in Winston would have on policing costs and whether or not those costs would outweigh tax revenue.

“It’s a gateway drug,” Staples said. “It’s going to lead to something else for some people. Yes, it will help some people. But I want to know what the cost of the policing is going to be because our police department costs right now are just out of sight.”

Bauer said the city asked other police departments in the area whether they’ve seen an increase in crime since dispensaries opened.

“Basically what we’ve heard is they aren’t seeing any problems with them,” he said.

Renée Morgan said marijuana alone doesn’t cause people’s addiction to other drugs.

“Addiction is a disease, and you cannot just say that marijuana was the gateway,” Morgan said. “My brother-in-law committed suicide last September. I can’t blame marijuana because he had so many issues with drugs. It didn’t just start with marijuana. He had trouble with anything he took. He was an addictive personality, and I hate that I miss him so much, but you can’t blame marijuana for his issues.”

Some people spoke against dispensaries from an emotional position.

“I don’t have any facts, I don’t have any information, I can just tell you how I feel,” said Kathy Lawrence. “I don’t feel good about our community having a dispensary.”

Sandra Thorn said she wants the city to be business-friendly, and she hopes that regulations on businesses would be informed by data showing a need for them.

“To deny a particular type of business in this community, there should be rational, data-driven, specific reasons,” Thorn said. “If it’s simply based on fear, misunderstanding or a feeling that you don’t like pot, to me that is not a rational reason to deny a legal business to operate within this community.”

Redbarn Dispensary owner Todd Theiss said his dispensaries in Myrtle Creek and Roseburg have contributed a lot of money to those cities. He also offered to give city councilors a tour of his facilities.

“In 2018, we contributed $41,000 to the city of Myrtle Creek,” Theiss said. “The same year, we contributed $230,000 to the state of Oregon. Now, a snippet of that came back into Douglas County for drug and alcohol counseling, it went to the school districts, etc.”

He added he and four other donors contributed to the Myrtle Creek Police Department so it could buy a new police vehicle.

Theiss doesn’t know whether Redbarn would be interested in opening a dispensary in Winston if the city lifted its restrictions, he said in an interview.

City councilors showed mixed opinions on the issue.

City Councilor Scott Rutter said he wouldn’t address it because he has an “ethical dilemma” serving on the board of directors at Adapt, an addiction and mental health treatment organization.

City Councilor Dorie White said, as a retired registered nurse, she doesn’t think marijuana is a gateway drug, and that she has seen it reduce patients’ pain.

“If people in this community want to smoke marijuana, they can get it right now,” City Councilor Allen Hobson said. “We’re not going to induce anyone else to smoke marijuana. On the other hand, to introduce a marijuana dispensary just for a money resource, I don’t think that’s necessarily a good idea either.”

Umpqua woman dies in crash on Tyee road

UMPQUA — An Umpqua woman has died and her husband is in critical condition from injuries suffered in a head-on crash in the 3800 block of Tyee Road just after 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies said 83-year-old Margaret Parkinson was a passenger in a Toyota Camry driven by her husband, 83-year-old Thomas Brian Parkinson, when it collided with a 2003 Ford F-250 pickup.

Margaret Parkinson was transported by air ambulance but died a short time later.

Thomas Parkinson was taken to CHI Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg by ambulance and later transferred by air ambulance to Peace Health Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield where he was listed in critical condition.

The driver of the Ford pickup, 26-year-old Kristopher Scott Knowlton of Oakland, was not injured.

The accident remains under investigation. Deputies are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 541-440-4471 referencing case no. 19-2724.