Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  Manzanita’s Courage, STRs and Other News

Manzanita City Council Unanimously Denies Manzanita Lofts!

Curry County Set to Allow Short Term Rentals Countywide

Clatsop County Residents Turn to Referendum to Control STRs in Residential Zones

And Wheeler’s Botts Marsh LLC Proposals…Again
Manzanita City Council Unanimously Denies Manzanita Lofts!
Neahkahnie Mountain North of Manzanita. Courtesy Wikimedia
At its July hearing, the Manzanita City Council unanimously upheld its planning commission and denied the Manzanita Lofts application! It turned out that Council had many concerns about the project, similar to those voiced by residents and other concerned parties, ORCA included. The project, right in the middle of a residential area on a very small 3.4 acre parcel, proposed a “hotel complex” containing nineteen studio hotel rooms in eleven separate buildings; a large community building; nine additional rental units of one and and two stories each; and six single-story “micro-cabins.”

The location, at the intersection of Dorcas and Classic Streets, triggered concerns ranging from traffic to neighborhood compatibility, not to mention an inadequate wetland study that found no wetlands where better studies made clear wetlands do in fact exist, and a profoundly shoddy initial application that amounted to only three pages of vague description. ORCA applauds Manzanita City Council for listening to residents’ deeply felt (and impeccably researched) concerns, and denying a project that clearly did not fit the neighborhood. 

In future, Manzanita may want to tackle the problem that city ordinances do not seem to define the word “hotel,” which should be remedied. Any coastal town usually has at least one and usually several hotels and motels, and it is a dangerous oversight not to define the term in ordinances. It can lead to exactly the kind of application Manzanita Lofts was, defining “hotel” by default for a project that may very well not be a hotel at all.
Curry County Set to Allow Short Term Rentals Countywide
Moon over Humbug Mountain. Courtesy ORCA
Curry County planning commission decided unanimously, after a single hurried hearing, to approve sweeping changes to the Curry County code, which would allow unlimited short term rentals (STRs) in rural residential zones outside urban growth boundaries as well as inside UGBs; and in rural commercial zones. Under the proposal, there would be no caps or restrictions of any kind on STRs. They would also be licensed — but the licenses would be transferable upon sale of the property, and the permits would allow up to fifteen residents per STR. To add insult to injury, the county also proposes to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) countywide. In rural residential zones, they would not be allowed to become STRs. But those inside UGBs would, a provision which would especially impact Port Orford. This northern Curry County town has a large UGB, and is working on its own STR ordinance. If the county suddenly permits STRs in the Urban Growth Boundary, and accessory dwelling units which can become STRs as well — along with increasing housing density opportunities — the city will most likely be quickly ringed with these rentals. There is an agreement between the city and the county concerning management of the Port Orford UGB, but the county is not paying attention to it at all. None of the many issues have been discussed by the two parties, such as sewer capacity, water, stormwater and other infrastructure services not to mention community livability, if the UGB is to be engulfed in short term rentals.

What is the county thinking of? The tenor of the county’s actions is nicely captured in a June memo, which explains the necessity of providing different housing options for tourists — not protecting the residents who live in the neighborhoods affected by these rentals. An earlier memo referred to keeping STR owners “safe” from a referendum to eliminate the rentals, such as the one passed in Lincoln County. It is clear where the county’s sympathy lies. They fail in this proposal even to discuss how the county will end those STRs operating illegally on resource lands.

Nearly every jurisdiction on the coast, not to mention worldwide, is trying to find ways to rein in the cancerous growth of STRs, which proliferate in neighborhoods and scenic rural areas, often managed by investment or real estate companies, usually for absentee owners. There has been constant friction about paying taxes, as well as water and sewer problems, and noise and parking, all up and down the coast. But Curry County is worried about protecting its STR owners. Clatsop County just passed a similar sweeping ordinance, outraging residents who have watched their neighborhoods be engulfed by short term rentals. They began a referendum to overturn the new ordinance.

If the residents of Curry County have any concerns about opening the door to STRs, both inside and outside UGBs, now is the time to raise your voices. The hearing before the Board of Commissioners is in August, probably the 17th.
Clatsop County Residents Turn to Referendum to Control STRs in Residential Zones
Waves and Trees in Clatsop County, image courtesy of ORCA
Once Clatsop Board of Commissioners passed a new ordinance (22-05), in June, allowing STRs in all the unincorporated county’s residential zones, outraged residents realized they had no choice except to pass a referendum to rescind the ordinance. North Coast Neighbors United (NCNU) quickly began organizing to gather the signatures necessary for placing the measure on the ballot.

Though not permitted in county residential zones, except in Arch Cape, the county nevertheless has approved scores of STRs in many zones, leading to some communities facing 30% or more of their housing stock in these highly disruptive rentals. The Board studiously ignored both its planning commission’s recommendation to keep STRs out of residential zones, and its own 2019 housing study, which explicitly warned against the problem STRs pose for affordable and workforce housing solutions.

NCNU is a broad coalition of rural residents countywide, ranging from business owners and renters to housing advocates and full-time residents owning their property. They are now in the process of gathering signatures to place the referendum on the ballot, and have until September 20th to do so. All Clatsop County voters, both in cities and in rural areas, will be able to vote on the referendum if it makes the ballot. 

Are you a Clatsop County voter, and want to help bring sanity back to the county’s rural areas by signing the petition, and/or volunteering to help gather signatures? Here is the NCNU website, which will get you started.
And Wheeler’s Botts Marsh LLC Proposals…Again
Wheeler Docks and Nehalem Bay. Courtesy City of Wheeler
Wheeler City Council held a hearing in May 2022 on the second remand for the Botts Marsh LLC proposal for a hotel and fish retail/community building on its property fronting Nehalem Bay. This is already the second remand hearing for this project. At the first remand hearing more than a year ago, after the initial LUBA case, City Council turned the project down, principally on grounds that it did not fit the Vision Plan for so tiny a community. Ken Ulbricht, principal of Botts Marsh LLC, appealed back to LUBA. The court remanded the decision back to the city a second time — but not for any substantive reason, merely for a technicality having to do with council members' procedure for recusal, given a potential conflict of interest. So Council held another remand hearing, and denied the project for the exact same reason on the exact same vote.

Predictably, Mr. Ulbricht has filed another LUBA appeal on this second city denial. The only way to stop this unpleasant merry-go-round of legal activity is for the court to uphold the city’s decision in its entirety. Perhaps Mr. Ulbricht is using the court not out of concern for a legal infirmity in the decision, but for an opportunity to see if the city’s political make-up will change, or perhaps to wear the city down. In ORCA’s opinion, neither is an appropriate use for the legal processes available to all citizens, if that is what is occurring in this instance.
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