Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  Tillamook and Clatsop County News

Treehouse Campground: Hearing To Be Continued

Wheeler Development: The First Ulbricht Proposal Again, Hearing May 24th

Clatsop County STRs: Taking Things More Slowly
Treehouse Campground: Hearing To Be Continued
Treehouse Partners LLC Property and Tierra del Mar. Courtesy Tillamook County.
On Monday, April 25, the Tillamook Board of Commissioners heard the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the Oregon Treehouse Partners campground project. The Board did not reach a decision, and has continued the hearing. The final date for the next hearing will be set on May 11th.

The initial application for this campground was vague and sloppy, containing almost none of the information Tillamook County ordinances or state law requires; nevertheless, the county planning commission waved it through their hearing with few questions and no probing of potential problems with the site. This lack of specific information led a Tierra del Mar resident to appeal the decision to the Board of Commissioners.

At the initial BOC hearing, it seems Treehouse Partners realized they would not be able to get an application approved without providing more solid details about this large commercial campground. They provided more detailed maps, showing the locations of fifteen tent sites, nine for geodesic domes and six with other tents; and four “accessory cabins.” The proposal also includes a “support cabin with a viewing deck,” a common area bath house, picnic area, and twenty-six parking slots.

They have promised a geotechnical report, which they say “will be underway soon.” They also said they have contracted for a wetland delineation, which is required by the Department of State Lands before any permit by that agency can be considered for this site. Treehouse also had somewhat more detailed information on water and sanitation infrastructure.

Unfortunately, tourism saturation is already a serious problem in Tillamook County, and the last thing the county needs is another commercial campground; there are others in the vicinity. The likelihood is that this development, if it goes ahead, will just become a Short Term Rental (STR) campground used for the kind of weekend parties for which STRs have become known. The sanitary and water requirements for such STR use are likely to be much greater than would be necessary for a regular campground. The county has not yet taken these kinds of problems into consideration.
Wheeler Development: The First Ulbricht Proposal Again, Hearing May 24th
Nehalem Bay Sunset with Neahkahnie Mountain
Botts Marsh LLC, the company owned by Ken Ulbricht, will have a hearing before Wheeler City Council on May 24th at 7:00 PM on an old development proposal for property on Nehalem Bay.
Two years ago, the former City Council approved Ulbricht’s application for a hotel and a fish processing/sales plant (including a restaurant) in Wheeler, on property owned by the applicant that fronts Nehalem Bay. Oregon Coast Alliance and some Wheeler residents took the approval to the Land Use Board of Appeals, and won a remand. The newly elected City Council declined to reinstate the permit, so Botts Marsh LLC took the decision to LUBA, and it was remanded again.

This new hearing will allow for any evidence on the application. ORCA is pleased to note that the LUBA decision finally settled one point of disagreement: Wheeler’s Vision Plan is a mandatory criterion for decision-making on land use applications. And its limit of 10 units in a development is also mandatory. City Council some years ago considered changing it, but never went through the formal process to do so. 

This means Wheeler residents have a powerful tool in hand to help them maintain the town’s livability, its view of Nehalem Bay and its cherished small-town character. The property is old fill (it once hosted a timber mill), not suitable for building heavy structures on, and suffers from some soil contamination, which the applicant has never addressed at all. This is a serious public health and safety issue. If the future of this lovely small town interests you, please submit testimony to Mary Johnson.
Clatsop County STRs: Taking Things More Slowly
Waves and Trees in Clatsop County, image courtesy of ORCA
Clatsop County Board of Commissioners acted responsibly and carefully in their April 27 hearing on Short Term Rentals. After an initial proposal to legalize STRs in all possible zones countywide resulted in extensive outcry, the Commissioners decided to take several steps back. They realized they needed more data, and more discussion on the results of changing the ordinances on STRs.

In the end, BOC took three actions: they extended the current moratorium on new STR licenses until August 2022 – which was very important, so both residents and officials could continue gathering data. Second, they passed an ordinance tightening restrictions on existing STRs. Several important policy changes will now be in place, including ending transferability of STR permits, limiting STR permits to two years rather than five, and limiting occupancy to the actual capacity of the septic system. The overall occupancy of an STR is limited to 14 – still too high, but at least it is a set limit. Third, BOC transferred the Arch Cape STR standards to the Clatsop County Codes.

These are all wins, and ORCA thanks the Board of Commissioners for their thoughtful, responsible work on the STR problem. But the needed tasks are not yet over. We urge BOC to set up a task force of citizens who would explore options for limiting STRs via a cap, zoning restriction or combination of other methods, so the number of rentals in the county’s rural communities does not engulf the neighborhoods where people live. BOC needs to pass such an STR cap, to solve the problem the county caused some years back by illegally allowing STRs in all residential zones.

Next step: BOC will hold a work session on May 18th to discuss data gathering and options before them to regulate STRs. Please, concerned people, keep writing to BOC about your concerns on STRs and livability – the issues continue to be many.
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