Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

Two Victories!

Bayocean Spit Will Stay Wild

Wheeler: The Ulbricht Development Permit Remanded by LUBA!

The Roberts Try a New Approach for a House in Cannon Beach

Bandon Beach Hotel Plan Review Appealed
Bayocean Spit Will Stay Wild
Bayocean Spit from Cape Meares. Courtesy Ellen Steen
Dale Bernards, the Portland businessman who owns some 23 acres of Bayocean Spit (plus land under Tillamook Bay adjacent to the upland property) appealed Tillamook County’s decision restricting uses for the property to low-impact recreation. The Tillamook County planning commission held a hearing, where Bernards testified, as did concerned residents in Cape Meres, and ORCA. On March 11 the planning commission rendered its decision, and upheld the county’s determination.

Bernards was potentially interested in camping, farming or livestock-keeping. But in 2014 the county had turned down his proposal for an “eco-resort,” so that option was already off the table. It was pointed out that Bernards knew when he bought the property that Tillamook County restricted uses there, due to Bayocean Spit being a fragile wetland deflation plain, its history of erosion, breach and slow repair, and the strictly limited vehicular access (to landowners only) thanks to the road being owned by the Army Corps of Engineers and used for South Jetty maintenance.

ORCA thanks the vigilant residents of Cape Meares for participating in the hearing and keeping their eye on the Spit, as they have done for more than eighty years now. From the disaster of Bayocean Park’s crumbling into the sea via severe erosion through the 1930s and 1940s till today, Cape Meares residents have been standing guard over the fate of Bayocean Spit, and helped protect it for the future.
Wheeler: the Ulbricht Development Permit Remanded by LUBA!
Wheeler Docks and Nehalem Bay – Courtesy City of Wheeler
The proposed Ulbricht development in Wheeler hit a major stumbling block: the city of Wheeler approved it, but ORCA and concerned residents appealed the decision, arguing among other things that the approval violated the standards of Wheeler’s Vision Plan, which placed in the Comprehensive Plan Wheeler’s desire to retain its small town character. The Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) recently remanded the city’s approval on just this point: officials had not shown that the Ulbricht proposal met the Vision Plan’s standards. LUBA also remanded on a transportation issue.

This is excellent news for residents who have been fighting for more than a year to retain the town’s village character, arguing that a large commercial building and a hotel, right on the Nehalem Bay waterfront, were too large a project to meet the Vision Plan’s criteria. LUBA agreed. The future of the development is now uncertain. Wheeler may hold a remand hearing to reconsider the development proposal, but the city is not obligated to simply issue better-crafted findings and justify the development proposal as it stands. The city may determine that, in a closer analysis, the Vision Plan would not allow so large a commercial project. Officials may also open discussions with the landowner about other, smaller-scale and more appropriate options for the bayfront property.
The Roberts Try a New Approach for a House in Cannon Beach
Roberts House, as Rendered by Applicant. October 2020. Courtesy City of Cannon Beach
The Roberts, who want to build a house on a lot in Cannon Beach but avoid obeying the oceanfront setback rules, are trying again. Their first effort, to simply bulldoze a permit approval ignoring the setback requirements, was denied by both the Planning Commission and City Council. They appealed the denial to the Land Use Board of Appeals, and it is working its way through that legal process. But meantime, they decided to try a different tactic.

They filed a second application with the city, this time to build the same house, but asking for a “hardship” variance to not have to abide by the ocean setback requirements. ORCA and many local residents opposed this application, because the setback rules must be applied equitably to all homeowners along the beachfront. The Roberts’ only “hardship" is that the rules would prevent them from building a house the size they want. They argued that the setback is larger for their house than others to whom it applies, but this is untrue. Furthermore, the setback requirements were in place at the time they bought the lot.

The planning commission recently denied this application. If the Roberts appeal to City Council, there will be a hearing there as well.
Bandon Beach Hotel Plan Review Appealed
Revised Bandon Beach Hotel, View from the Southwest. Courtesy City of Bandon.
The Bandon Beach Hotel controversy is still running high. This is the Keiser proposal to build a large new glassy hotel on the site of the Bandon Beach Motel, on the bluff at Coquille Point. Though the city of Bandon granted the conditional use permit, and it was upheld at LUBA despite our appeal, the Plan Review segment of the approval was yet to come. This is basically design review, covering issues such as how the building is designed, and whether geological hazards allow it to be built in the manner proposed, as well as other issues related to fencing, parking, vegetation, and so on.

The city hired a Hearings Officer to make the decision, refusing to hold a public hearing, though written testimony was allowed. But a Bandon resident appealed the Hearings Officer’s approval, and Bandon discovered that under state law it had to hold a full hearing. So on March 28 City Council held its hearing, and got to hear directly about the several geological hazard issues facing the site: large amounts of erosion at the toe of the bluff as well as near the top, a multitude of small springs cascading down the bluff face and turning the clay wet and soggy, and the obvious instability of the entire bluff face.

Council will accept further testimony until April 5th, and make its decision April 12th. To review the comments and issues in this hotel proposal, see here.