Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  Ending the Wheeler Project, A New "Goal 18" Exception and
Other News

Wheeler Ends the Ulbricht Project

Pine Beach: A New "Goal 18" Exception Application

Arch Cape Speculative Roads Appealed
Wheeler Ends the Ulbricht Project
Wheeler Docks and Nehalem Bay – Courtesy City of Wheeler
Wheeler City Council finally ended the Ulbricht project, after a year and a half of controversy.

Seaside developer Ken Ulbricht hoped to create a large development on his land in Wheeler bordering Nehalem Bay: a hotel as well as a commercial building for fish processing, a restaurant, employee housing and other uses. The project was contentious from the beginning, with many residents of the tiny town arguing that it did not fit the precepts of the Vision Plan, Wheeler’s community-based blueprint for the town’s future. A citizen poll was the basis for the Vision Plan’s focus on maintaining the small-town character of Wheeler as the keystone of its livability.

The Ulbricht project was approved after a series of controversial and occasionally raucous hearings. Oregon Coast Alliance and some concerned residents appealed the approval to LUBA. In March LUBA handed down its opinion, ruling that the city had not shown how the Ulbricht project would uphold the Vision Plan.

Requesting a remand hearing, Ulbricht tried one more time to convince City Council that his scheme was good for Wheeler and would indeed meet the tenets of the Vision Plan, which is a mandatory criterion for approval of development projects. But this time Council voted against the proposal. ORCA salutes the City Council for its courageous vote to uphold the residents’ desire to retain Wheeler’s small town character, and also to act on their concerns that the project was too large for the community’s streets and would cause traffic problems.
Pine Beach: A New "Goal 18" Exception Application
Pine Beach development, showing Goal 18 exception proposal. Courtesy Tillamook County
Pine Beach is a development in the Barview-Watseco area of unincorporated Tillamook County. Having recently experienced the sea coming in closer to houses during a king tide, Pine Beach is requesting a Goal 18 exception to allow them to place riprap – a line of large boulders – in front of the beachfront houses in the development. Pine Beach is not eligible for riprap under Goal 18, unless it gets an exception to the rules.

To provide testimony, send to Sarah Absher. The initial hearings (which includes a floodplain permit) will be held May 27, beginning at 6:30 PM. As the courthouse is still closed, it will be virtual only. Virtual Meeting Access. This requires Microsoft Teams. The staff report and other materials are here.

Goal 18 of the land use laws protects beaches and dunes, limiting development on active foredunes, which are notoriously unstable. Most controversially, Goal 18 also limits beach armoring, the most common form of which is riprap. The problem with beach armoring, and especially riprap, is that though it temporarily protects the affected property, it also deflects the waves onto adjacent properties and begins to undermine them. Even more seriously, it aggravates the loss of sand on beaches over time. Recognizing this, Goal 18 limits beach armoring to those properties eligible for development as of January 1, 1977. Exceptions to this goal are vanishingly rare, because the rules are stringent, and Oregon policy to protect beaches from sand loss is strongly worded. Most of Oregon’s beaches are not armored, and consequently the beaches fluctuate normally with natural processes, though influenced by manmade structures such as jetties, docks and riprap.

ORCA is opposed to the Pine Beach Goal 18 exception request. There is no need for riprap at this location, nor is it a heavily riprapped area, except for Shorewood RV Park to the north. There is no severe erosion afflicting Pine Beach that would make a discussion necessary of riprap, retreat of buildings, or other drastic measures.
Arch Cape Speculative Roads Appealed
Arch Cape Wetlands. Courtesy ORCA
Arch Cape, the small community nestled at the very southern end of Clatsop County, has a large amount of land east of Highway 101 platted decades ago, without concern for wetlands, rocky areas or other landforms. Most of these old lots are not even buildable; but nevertheless over time some have been purchased.

Recently Clatsop County has seen a “road rush” of applications by some property owners to build speculative roads to their properties on the county’s right-of-way, even though the owners have no plans to develop the properties as of now, and no applications before the county.

Clatsop County has granted permission for several of these speculative roads, erroneously assuming that “access” to property means giving the landowner the right to build a road. But property access is not the same as a road. Oregon Coast Alliance and the Arch Cape Falcon Cove Beach Community Club are both concerned about the recent rash of speculative road approvals, because access roads under county ordinance are considered part of a development – not an activity preceding the building of the house. Both groups are also worried about the increasing number of “roads to nowhere” as these applications are approved. ORCA and the Club have appealed three of the county administrative approvals, and the appeal hearings are scheduled for early June.