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Commission delays vote on coastal golf course

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GOLD BEACH, Ore. (AP) — A coastal planning commission has delayed making a decision on a proposed golf course amid the familiar clash between economic interests and environmental concerns.

The Curry County planning commission, at the request of two environmental groups, agreed to extend the public comment period for two weeks.

The Pacific Gales Golf Course would be built between Cape Blanco and the city limits of Port Orford. Because the site is on land zoned for farming, a conditional use permit is needed. The commission plans to vote on the permit Feb. 27.

An overflow crowd turned out for a commission meeting last week, The World newspaper of Coos Bay reported (http://is.gd/Olw69N). Course supporters said the county needs economic development, while opponents expressed environmental worries.

Penelope Suess, a Port Orford resident, said the land will never return to its natural state once a golf course is built, and it's uncertain whether the course can compete with others in the region, such as the popular Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Meanwhile, Ann Vileisis, president of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, said water taken from the Elk River for irrigation could lead to higher river and stream temperatures, harming fish populations.

But Port Orford Mayor Jim Auborn said he's in favor of economic development, and the course would hire workers while also benefiting motels, restaurants and tourist attractions.

Michael Hewitt, a retired state parks manager who lives near the proposed site, agreed.

"I want to say thank you for your boldness making this project," he said to a Pacific Gales representative. "This county needs economic development. We need to move forward."

David Pratt, the county's interim planning director, has recommended the commission approve the application, but with some conditions.

Chris Hood, a representative from Elk River Property Development LLC, said he agreed with Pratt's report, except for the conditions that have to do with wetlands — such as a 50-foot setback for the golf course.

"I don't think we're going to be harming the wetlands with what we're doing," he said.

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Information from: The World, http://www.theworldlink.com

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