Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

Good News in Cannon Beach and Other News

Good News, Bad News: Cannon Beach and Bandon

Bayocean Spit: Dale Bernards Wants to Know His Development Options

Roberts House in Cannon Beach: Trying Again to Beat the Ocean Setback Rule
Good News, Bad News: Cannon Beach and Bandon
Cannon Beach dunes looking south to haystack Rock. Courtesy ORCA
The good news: The Land Use Board of Appeals just issued an opinion upholding Cannon Beach’s decision to end all view-grading of dunes in the city. This was a hotly contested issue, especially for owners of oceanfront property. Cannon Beach allowed view grading for more than twenty years, and found that it led to interminable hearings, escalating requests for grading, and damage to dunes needed for flood control and wildlife habitat. LUBA’s welcome opinion vindicated the city’s hard work to change course. ORCA especially thanks Cannon Beach City Council, which made the right decision in the face of strong pressures to continue view-grading as usual.

The bad news: a hearings officer in Bandon approved the Plan Review for the Bandon Beach Hotel, a Keiser project to replace an existing small-scale motel next to Coquille Point National Wildlife Refuge with a large, glassy upscale hotel completely out of proportion with the surrounding neighborhood. All the way through the permitting process, city officials refused to listen to warnings about the geological hazards of the clifftop where the hotel is to be sited, despite thorough testimony from local residents. Now that the hotel has all the green lights, we shall see whether the cliff can handle the massive construction planned.
Bayocean Spit: Dale Bernards Wants to Know His Development Options
Bayocean Spit from Cape Meares. Courtesy Ellen Steen
Dale Bernards, a Portland-area businessman, owns some 23 acres of Bayocean Spit. Most of the Spit is owned by Tillamook County, which acquired it via tax foreclosure when the resort town of Bayocean Park fell into the sea over some decades, culminating in the 1952 breach by the ocean of the highly eroded spit. The spit has been slowly regrowing since the Corps of Engineers completed South Jetty at the mouth of Tillamook Bay in the 1980s. Tillamook County maintains it essentially as a natural park, and it is a prized place for hiking, horse-riding, beach-walking, photography and similar pursuits. The nearby community of Cape Meares, nestled at the base of the Spit, has always been its local guardian.

But Bernards wants to develop his acreage. In 2014 he applied for an “eco-resort” on the property, which would have included “glamping” (that’s glamor camping) tents, a marine research station, equestrian trails and other features. Tillamook County turned him down. He also tried at one point to pasture goats in a fenced enclosure on his windswept acreage. But he did not take care of them, and they got free and wandered around half-starving. This time he tried a new tactic: requesting a Land Use Verification from the county detailing what activities and uses would be permissible. Bernards indicated he was principally interested in farming, livestock-keeping or camping, but the county, after analyzing the comprehensive plan and all relevant ordinances and overlay zones, determined that the only available use is low-impact recreation. Bayocean Spit is a fragile but harsh environment, a wet deflation plain of sandy soils and frequent high winds.

Bernards appealed the county decision, and the Tillamook County planning commission held a hearing February 25th. Final decision will be March 11th. The county is highly protective of Bayocean Spit, and the commission will likely uphold the verification. If they do and Bernards appeals, ORCA will be there, continuing to defend Bayocean Spit. So will many concerned residents of Cape Meares.
Roberts House in Cannon Beach: Trying Again to Beat the Ocean Setback Rule
Roberts House, as Rendered by Applicant. October 2020. Courtesy City of Cannon Beach
The Roberts in 2020 tried to get Cannon Beach approval for a house larger than the oceanfront setback restrictions allow, arguing the setback did not apply to them. Cannon Beach turned them down, the Roberts appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals, and the case is still in court. Nevertheless, the Roberts are trying a second time to gain the city’s approval for an overly-large house — this time by requesting a variance to the setback. But a variance is not a box-checking exercise. The applicant has to show “practical difficulty or unnecessary hardship” to be granted a variance, and the Roberts have neither. They have plenty of room to build a reasonable-sized dwelling, right at the median of Cannon Beach home sizes. Nor does this situation present “exceptional or extraordinary circumstances” that Cannon Beach ordinance requires for a successful variance.

Simply, the Roberts desire to build a larger house than the lot has room for — and they knew when they bought the lot that the oceanfront setback rules applied. The limits on this lot are of no surprise to them; they just don’t wish to follow the restrictions, put in place to protect the public health and safety. The planning commission held a hearing last week, and will decide on March 25th.