Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  North Coast in the Spotlight

Clatsop County Approves STRs for All Residential Zones

Manzanita Planning Commission Denies the Manzanita Lofts Proposal!

Arch Cape Water District Buys Its Watershed
Clatsop County Approves STRs for All Residential Zones
Waves and Trees in Clatsop County, image courtesy of ORCA
As expected, the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners recently approved a new ordinance legalizing short term rentals (STRs) in all residential zones in the county. Residents countywide watched in disbelief as the commissioners voted, with no consideration whatsoever for neighborhood concerns, overloaded local infrastructure, property values or the importance of keeping inappropriate commercial activities out of residential zones. But noticing the increasing volume of letters and phone calls, county officials decided at the last minute to ask staff to prepare recommendations on STR caps, to be heard by BOC in a few weeks’ time. This was clearly a sudden decision, as the county scrambled to get out in front of the rising tide of disgust and outrage at the BOC action.

It seems unlikely that any proposal for caps on this outrageous new ordinance will provide any relief to the STRs engulfing the county’s rural residential areas, especially those close to the coast. If BOC were truly interested in capping the STRs to which they have just opened the door, why would they have passed the ordinance in the first place? It is much more likely that any proposed caps that come out of the BOC discussion will be very weak, allow as many STRs as possible, especially in the popular coastal zones, and give maximum leeway to STR owners, rather than provide tough standards to protect neighborhood integrity. Shame on the Clatsop BOC for selling their own rural neighborhoods to commercial interests.
Manzanita Planning Commission Denies the Manzanita Lofts Proposal!
Neahkahnie Mountain North of Manzanita. Courtesy Wikimedia
Manzanita has lately been struggling with a proposal for a large commercial project in the middle of a residential area at Classic and Dorcas streets. The Manzanita Lofts application requested approval for nineteen studio hotel rooms in eleven buildings, some designed to hold two hotel units. The application also proposed a community building and nine “additional rental units,” of one to two stories — essentially cottages of about 1,000 square feet each. Finally, there would also be six single-story “micro-cabins.” All this, to be built on less than four acres, would require some forty-three parking spaces. After several hearings, and much testimony and discussion, the Manzanita planning commission unanimously voted to deny the project.

Neighbors raised many critical questions about traffic problems on the small residential streets. There were other key issues as well. The city’s staff report identified the project as a “hotel,” but interestingly, Manzanita city code does not appear to define “hotel.” Other north coast communities, such as Gearhart and Astoria, do define “hotel” in their ordinances. The lack of such a definition gave the applicant and city officials ample opportunity to create a large loophole by which, they hoped, the application would be approved. They also refused to apply the city’s density standards to buildings that clearly were dwellings — by arguing it was a commercial project.

In addition, the project narrative for so complex a proposal was vague and sketchy, literally only three pages long. There were no technical studies, such as a wetland delineation and geohazard report, though these are both required under Manzanita ordinances. Worst of all, the city staff report made a concerted effort to argue for approval, while shoving all the crucial details down to the technical level — where no appeals are allowed, because there are no discretionary decisions, only box-checking. This turns the land use planning process on its head: technical studies are critical to the decision at the application level, so that the community and decision-makers can see what is proposed, and act knowledgeably. 

Thank you, Manzanita planning commission, for your courage to deny a project that was ill-conceived, did not fit the neighborhood, and relied on a distortion of land use planning requirements to gain approval.
Arch Cape Water District Buys Its Watershed
Sunset at Arcadia Beach. Courtesy OPRD
The Arch Cape Domestic Water Supply District has long had a problem: its 1,500-acre forested watershed was privately owned. It could be clearcut at any time, imperiling the clear, cold water the District could supply to its customers. But just this month, the District was able to reach its longstanding goal of owning the watershed! With $3.5 million from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, $2 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, $250,000 from Clatsop County and some $300,000 in community contributions, the District was able to finalize purchase from Ecotrust Forests LLC, the current owner.

The new purchase will protect the District’s water supply from the steep headwaters near Onion Peak (the second highest peak in Clatsop County) all the way down to Shark and Asbury Creeks, where it is tapped for the District’s water supply. In addition, the property is adjacent to Oswald West State Park, so its conservation greatly increases the block of protected land in the region.

The District plans to focus management on protection of the water supply. They are working with a community advisory committee, which has already voted to adopt forest management policies in consultation with Springboard Forestry LLC; there will be broader public engagement before the drafting of a ten-year operating plan. The District is also working with North Coast Land Conservancy and other partners to outline a balanced approach to public access that allows people to enjoy the parcel, while protecting its ecological values.
You are receiving ORCA email communications as a donor or as a person who subscribed to this email newsletter. Please click Unsubscribe below if you wish to no longer receive the Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter.