Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  Allowing STRs in Clatsop County and Other News

Clatsop County to Allow STRs in Falcon Cove Beach: Hearing March 8th

Gearhart’s Not-So-Good Draft Parks Plan

Mining 300,000 Tons of Rock on Curry County Federal Forests: Comment by April 4th
Clatsop County to Allow STRs in Falcon Cove Beach: Hearing March 8th
Arch Cape Beach in Winter. Courtesy ORCA
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has been wrestling with short term rentals (STRs) for months now. After increasing concerns by local residents, especially in Falcon Cove Beach and surrounding areas, the County put a moratorium in place and began having listening sessions on the subject. Then BOC started holding work sessions. But all the proposed changes revolved around tightening up enforcement, not capping or otherwise reducing the constantly increasing numbers of STRs. Residents pointed out, via letters from knowledgeable attorneys, that permitting STRs in Falcon Cove Beach, and other areas zoned “Coast Residential,” was illegal, as STRs are not an allowed use in that zone. Cove Beach residents and attorneys offered to meet with the county to start working on alternatives that would both rein in STRs and reduce the county’s liability for all the illegal permits. County officials did not reply.

Then suddenly, in late February, the County Planning Director presented to the BOC a proposal for amending the ordinances to explicitly allow STRs in the Coast Residential zone! Clearly the county heard the concerns, and decided to “solve” the problem by welcoming STRs explicitly and making them legal where they had not been. The proposed ordinance would allow STRs in all zones where single-family dwellings are permitted — as a so-called Type I permit, which means there would be no public notice and no public hearing. The proposed changes contain no mechanism for capping, limiting, grandfathering or in any way reducing STRs. Rural residents in south Clatsop County, where most STRs are clustered, were stunned. 

Clatsop County is thus hoping to pass a new ordinance which will legitimize and magnify the current STR problem countywide. They have clearly paid no attention at all to the pleas of Cove Beach residents, especially, who face an STR rate of 30% of their neighborhood homes, and climbing. It is apparent that the County believes STR income is more important by far than protecting neighborhoods and communities.

The first hearing on the ordinance changes will be March 8 before the Clatsop County Planning Commission. If you live in Clatsop County and are concerned by this blatant move on the part of BOC to expand and legalize STRs, please comment to the planning commission before March 8. Send emails to comdev@co.clatsop.or.us

You can find the proposed ordinance changes, along with commentaries and summaries, here
Gearhart’s Not-So-Good Draft Parks Plan
Houses Fronting the Gearhart Dunes on Ocean Avenue. Courtesy of Kristin Bell / Wikimedia
Gearhart is working on a Parks Master Plan. This is important because Gearhart, though a small town in Clatsop County, has jurisdiction over a lot of ocean-fronting dune land: along the entire city coastline, including the north edge of Necanicum River estuary — a total of about 88 acres. The draft Plan has some excellent policies. Policy #1, for example, requires the city of Gearhart to preserve all park properties currently owned or controlled by the city. Policy #2 maintains the existing zoning currently zoned as Parks and Open Space. Policy #3 requires Gearhart to manage all city-owned beaches, dunes and estuary lands to maintain in their undeveloped state.

The main problem comes with the fourth policy, which requires vegetation management according to the standards in the Beaches and Dunes Overlay Zone. Unfortunately this overlay allows private parties to mow the dunes, and prune and remove trees not only for public benefit but for protection of private views of adjacent landowners. With a city permit, private landowners can undertake substantial “management” of the public dunes for private purposes.

This is highly inappropriate. The Gearhart dunes, nearly 90 acres of them, must be managed for ecological integrity, dunal habitats and flood safety for the residents. Gearhart has no mandate of any kind to protect private landowners’ views. The city does not allow dune-grading for views either, as there is no Foredune Management Plan as required by state law. The Gearhart beaches and dunes are one of the city’s greatest assets: its coastal beauty, as well as a crucial protection against floods and king tides. Since these areas are zoned Parks and Open Space, and are owned by the city for the public, they must be managed for public benefit only, not private benefit, regardless of whether Gearhart allows view-grading of dunes in the future.

The draft Gearhart Parks Plan needs more work, in order to adequately project the dunes, the city’s front line against the sea in a time of global warming, and one of the city’s finest attractions to both residents and visitors.
Mining 300,000 Tons of Rock on Curry County Federal Forests: Comment by April 4th
Old Growth Forest at Colebrook Mining Site. Courtesy Rich Nawa/KS Wild
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) very quietly and casually notified the few residents up Hunter Creek Road in January that it planned to open a 40-acre quarry nearby to allow contractors to mine rock for highway projects. The letter notified residents that at least 300,000 tons (!!) of rock would be mined over an indeterminate number of years by unnamed parties, as project needs dictated. All the rock would be transported more than nine miles out to highways via Hunter Creek Road. 

Subsequent questions to ODOT by frantic Curry County residents elicited curt replies. The quarry was being developed via a quiet land transfer from the federal Bureau of Land Management, the current owner of the land, to the Federal Highway Administration. ODOT would manage the quarry. The agencies decided that as a “mere” transfer of land, it merited a “Categorical Exclusion” from any federal environmental review. They didn’t plan to do any environmental analysis at all. Just quietly reduce the land to a moonscape over a span of years as the rock was mined.

But, it turns out, much of the forty acres is mature and old growth forest! Even more important, it is a fragment of old growth with tree farms nearby, thus being an important piece of mature old growth among younger forests — essential to habitat connectivity for many species, including, potentially, the Pacific marten. Could this be why the federal agencies were so anxious to get the quarry underway with no public fanfare and no environmental review? After letters and formal requests, the comment period has been extended on this proposal to April 4th. Please send comments to: jill.dekoekkoek@odot.oregon.gov describing concerns about the quarry location, its effects, and the agency effort to minimize environmental analysis.
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