May 9, 2020 — This week’s Florence City Council meeting was attended “virtually” by all councilors on Monday, May 4, with no members of the public in attendance, as in-person attendance is not allowed at city council meetings per social distancing regulations put in place by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in March.
The council’s meeting dealt primarily with basic “housekeeping” issues, mostly having to do with zoning and budgetary matters.
The main point of discussion was related to Ordinance No.5, Series 2020, which was a request to re-zone property owned by Florence Elks Lodge #1858, a two-acre property located at 1686 12th St.
New Florence Senior Planner Roxanne Johnston presented her department’s recommendation that the council approve the zoning change from “high density” to “commercial.”
Johnson recapped the approval process to that point, including a recommendation from the Florence Planning Commission to allow the rezoning to proceed.
After her presentation, council approved the request unanimously.
Consent items were next on the evening’s agenda and included the adoption of Resolution No.8, Series 2020, which sought to establish an investment policy for Florence. There was a brief discussion clarifying the need for the resolution, but it was decided that the actual wording and implementation of any future investment strategy won’t be re-visited until the city is in a post-COVID environment.
The meeting also approved an authorization request for City Manager Erin Reynolds to enter into to a contract for auditing services and preparation of Florence’s financial statements for fiscal years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22.
City councilors then accepted a proposal from Cascade Civil Corporation of nearly $300,000 for the Safe Routes to School improvement projects on 27th and 28th streets. The council approved the expenditure, which has been discussed at previous council meetings.
There were three general reports presented, one which provided an updated timeline for the 2020 Census, which has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-9 outbreak. Impacts have included the closing of field offices and a re-evaluation of the techniques and safety equipment needed for Census workers and respondents to conduct interviews safely.
During the meeting, councilors heard an update that Census field offices will reopen on June 1. In addition, the collection of data has been extended to Oct. 31.
Florence currently has a 55.6 percent self-response rate, while the rest of Lane County has a slightly higher rate of response at 59.2 percent.
The second report covered a COVID-19 related grant the Florence Municipal Airport received in the amount of $30,000. This will be used for operational and management of the facility.
The third general report was an update on the members of this year’s Rhody Court, which is dealing with a unique set of circumstances, including the planning of a virtual component.
Due to the cancellation of many city committee and commission meetings, there were no individual committee reports. However, there was a discussion initiated by Councilor Joshua Greene that sought a plan more tailored for Florence in preparing for reopening, with differing plans applying to different segments of the city and surrounding area during a return to a new normal.
“Do you think it might be a good idea for us to have an online work session where the primary focus is to look at things in our area that we could bring to the governor and the county?” Greene asked. “These could be customized requests about how we might be able open up specific areas of the community, beaches, parks, some restaurants, retail and possibly the lake for fishing — certain areas that we know would work? Because they are not familiar with our community, how small it is and how we would be able to pay attention to social distancing and wear masks where necessary.”
Reynolds responded, saying, “We have been doing pretty exactly that from an operational perspective for sectors that have been proposed to be reopened in some shape or form during Phase One. There has been quite a bit of work done around the industry sectors, retail, restaurants, childcare, outdoor recreation, personal care services and public transit.”
Reynolds has been clear that city staff would consider recommendations and suggestions from Lane County and state officials when deciding on local policy — a point which was reiterated Monday evening.
“From our local level and the Florence area we have solicited many, many comments and questions and we have forwarded those to the county and the governor, and we have worked madly over the last 10 days on this,” she said.
One issue was raised by Councilor Ron Preisler during the portion of the meeting reserved for councilor comments. Preisler’s implored residents to wear a mask in public places, and to follow social distancing recommendations, explaining that “the health of others in the community is dependent on maintaining safe social interactions.”
The next virtual Florence City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 18.
For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.