Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
The Marina That Never Happened and Other News
The Cannon Beach Sheet Pile Controversy Drags On

Ecola Creek by Breakers Point Condominiums in King Tide, January 18, 2018. Courtesy ORCA
Cannon Beach planning commission in late May denied Breakers Point HOA a permit for the proposed sheet pile wall on Breakers Point property, inland from where Ecola Creek continues to eat away at the north bank, coming ever closer to the condominiums. Many who testified, including Oregon Coast Alliance, repeated their willingness to work with the city of Cannon Beach, and Breakers Point, to hire a knowledgeable coastal engineer and design a project to solve the problem  that would also respect  the estuary's integrity. There was also much testimony that a buried sheet pile wall will solve no problems, except to act as a temporary defense. It will also probably increase the creek's erosion in the vicinity.

Instead, Breakers Point appealed the denial up to City Council. The hearing will be August 4th. In early July Council will hold a public meeting to consider the scope of review for the August 4th hearing. No testimony is allowed for the July meeting.

ORCA continues to advocate for the city to take leadership on this problem, since city properties and infrastructure are also affected by Ecola Creek's penchant for swinging northward. With Cannon Beach's participation, necessary grants to defray costs would be much easier to  pursue, and impacted landowners could collaborate under the city's umbrella.
Botts Marsh and the 1983 Marina That Was Going to Be Built There

Wheeler Waterfront. Courtesy City of Wheeler
There is confusion in Wheeler about the history of the Botts Marsh property now owned by Ken Ulbricht, and what development might be allowed there. Let's set it straight, even though it requires plunging a little deeper into the land use laws than usual.

In 1983 the Ulbricht property, and Botts Marsh itself, was owned by Vern Scovell. Tillamook County had zoned the Nehalem estuary with protective zones, but Scovell applied for a "Reasons Exception" to these zones, which would allow him to build a 200-boat marina, a motel, RV park, restaurant and other development. Tillamook County, as required by law, performed  an  "ESEE" analysis,  weighing the many  environmental, economic and social factors, which included a showing of "need" for Scovell's project. The County concluded the Exception was appropriate. It was placed in the 1983 Tillamook County Comprehensive Plan, which the state Land Conservation and Development Commission then "acknowledged" - that is, certified as conforming to the land use laws.

1000 Friends of Oregon, the land use advocacy group, did not think the Exception was appropriate, and sued LCDC for approving the Tillamook County Comprehensive Plan with the Exception. The case went to the Oregon Court of Appeals, then the Oregon Supreme Court. In 1987 the Supreme Court upheld the Botts Marsh Exception and the process Tillamook County had used to approve it. The case was 1000 Friends of Oregon v. LCDC (Tillamook County), 302 Or. 526 (1987).

Scovell did not build the marina or any other development  after this victory.  The Exception therefore  became  invalid. A "Reasons Exception" must lay out the need for the  Exception . When  the proposal , or local government zoning regulations, change, a new Reasons Exception is required. In 2002 the Department of Land Conservation and Development let Tillamook County know the old 1983 Exception was out of date, and a new one would be required if Scovell wanted to use it. Scovell never submitted a new Exception, and never built anything on the property.

Final conclusion: the 1983 Exception is completely invalid. It is dead. The "need " for the marina  was calculated using data more  than thirty-five years old,  for a project not built then, and that no one is proposing to build now.  The 1987 Supreme Court case only validated Tillamook County's approval of the 1983 Exception  for the marina complex proposed at the time  - nothing else. 

If  Ulbricht wanted to build anything outside of what current zoning allows, he would have to provide a completely new Exception with current data  justifying the need  for his project. And he would, in addition, have to  submit  an application that meets all land use requirements.
Summit at Manzanita Development Proposed on Neahkahnie Mountain

Neahkahnie Mountain from the North. Courtesy Wikimedia
The developer of a proposed subdivision on Neahkahnie Mountain has returned with an updated application, originally submitted in 2017. The proposal by Seventeen Enterprises LLC requests a cluster subdivision of thirty lots on a 70-acre parcel, which is zoned Rural Residential. Tillamook County planning commission held a hearing June 11, with a decision probable at the final hearing on July 9th.

The problem is that the Summit at Manzanita development, as it is called, would sit very close to the three natural springs that constitute the water supply of the Neahkahnie Water District. NWD serves more than 600 customers in the rural Neahkahnie Mountain area, and the springs are its only potable water supply. From the outset of this subdivision proposal, NWD has been worried about groundwater contamination from pesticides, septic tank effluent and stormwater runoff, in addition to flow reduction as the springs are impacted by the development.

After extensive study, NWD determined the only way to protect the springs was to acquire the property by eminent domain, and passed a resolution in 2019 declaring its intent to do so. The condemnation ordinance, to be finalized this summer, is projected to go into effect in August 2020. That will trigger the negotiation between NWD and the developer for the amount to be paid in just compensation.

Why, then, is the developer pursuing County approval of this subdivision, knowing that NWD will be negotiating under its eminent domain authority to acquire the property?  It seems likely that this is a ploy by the developer to increase the amount of just compensation they would receive. County approval for Summit at Manzanita would make the property much more valuable for negotiation purposes.

There are many other problems with the Summit at Manzanita proposal, ranging from inappropriate variance requests to its failure to address the NWD concerns about water supply. But the fundamental point is that since NWD is going to use eminent domain to acquire the property, the development will never be built. It is a waste of County resources to consider this proposal, whose sole purpose is apparently to maneuver the developer into as favorable a position as possible for just compensation.
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