Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

  STRs in Clatsop County and Other News

Clatsop County Proposes STRs in All Residential Zones: Hearing June 8th

Wheeler City Council Denies an Ulbricht Permit for the Second Time

Tillamook County Approves the Treehouse Campground Application
Clatsop County Proposes STRs in All Residential Zones: Hearing June 8th
Waves and Trees in Clatsop County, image courtesy of ORCA
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has shown its hand. It is clear, if it was not before, that the Board has no concern for the county’s rural communities. The agenda for the upcoming June 8th meeting contains a proposal for the county to allow short term rentals (STRs) in all residential, non-resource zones in the entire county. That will include Miles Crossing, Westport, Knappa, Svenson, and Cove Beach, among others. It will also include all Residential Agriculture zones countywide, and the Gearhart urban growth boundary lands. 

It is incredible that BOC is proposing to open the throttle and welcome STRs everywhere at the exact time communities worldwide are trying frantically to limit and discipline their presence as neighborhoods are engulfed in STRs. Perhaps county revenue from the Transient Room Tax (TRT) has something to do with it: in fiscal year 2020/21, Clatsop County received more than $937,000 in TRT revenues from existing licensed STRs. The county also calculated that the planning commission’s balanced recommendation to restrict STRs to certain zones, and make them a Type IIA use that would require a public hearing, would cost the county up to $62,000 annually.

Not coincidentally, the county also just released a memo on STRs and housing costs. Their data found that single family houses' price rose 22-33% between 2018 and 2021 in Clatsop County, whereas houses with an STR permit have risen 5-42% in real market value. However, this kind of data does not investigate the corrosive effects STRs have on neighborhoods and livability. Nor does it consider the effects of STRs on the county’s housing and buildable lands inventories. The county’s own recent housing analysis strongly proposed limiting STRs.

The county’s irresponsible attempt to favor a small source of revenue over community and neighborhood integrity is shocking, all the more so as data from around the country shows how detrimental STRs are to communities. Despite the testimony of many neighbors in the county, the BOC is plowing ahead with this highly unpopular measure. What is necessary to show the Board of Commissioners that this is not the way to sustain and strengthen livability? For further information on the June 8th hearing, including the Agenda and Packet, see here.
Wheeler City Council Denies an Ulbricht Permit for the Second Time
Wheeler Docks and Nehalem Bay. Courtesy City of Wheeler
Wheeler City Council, for the second time, turned down the proposal by Botts Marsh LLC for a hotel and adjacent building that would have retail fish sales, a large restaurant and employee housing. Almost exactly a year ago the exact same City Council members denied the exact same project for the exact same reasons. The only reason Council had to repeat the exercise is that Ken Ulbricht, the principal of Botts Marsh LLC, took the 2021 decision to the Land Use Board of Appeals, which remanded it back to the city on minor procedural grounds. But the major questions had not changed, especially whether or not the project fit the city’s Vision Plan, which reflects the residents’ desire to maintain the town’s small town character.

Mr. Ulbricht in 2021 also applied for a large fish processing plant on the property, in the event that his hotel/fish sales and restaurant project did not get approval. The city turned this processing plant proposal down for a different reason: there were inadequate architectural and engineering plans, and almost no specifics about very important water, sewer availability and stormwater management questions. Mr. Ulbricht also took this decision to LUBA. He has also filed a federal court case alleging that Wheeler is “taking” his property (that is, depriving him of his property rights and interfering with business opportunities, as stated in the filed papers of the lawsuit) by refusing to let him build one or another of these projects.

In this most recent decision, as a year ago, City Council repeatedly requested the opportunity to work with Mr. Ulbricht on a development that would fit both the property (which fronts Nehalem Bay) and the town’s character. Mr. Ulbricht has not responded to this request, but has continued to bring forward his own proposals, which do not fit either Wheeler’s character or its infrastructure capacity.
Tillamook County Approves the Treehouse Campground Application
Treehouse Partners LLC Property and Tierra del Mar. Courtesy Tillamook County.
The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners has approved the Treehouse Partners application for a campground consisting of locations of fifteen tent sites, nine for geodesic domes and six with other tents; and four “accessory cabins.” The proposal also includes a “support cabin with a viewing deck,” a common area bath house, picnic area, and parking slots.

The BOC appears to have forgotten that the burden of proof is on the applicant to show that the proposal meets all requirements. In this instance, that must include a geotechnical report and a wetland delineation. Instead, BOC apparently finds it appropriate to make a final decision without requiring that evidence up front, thus leaving other agencies to consider, as mere technical aspects of the project, data that should be part of the decision on whether or not the project should be allowed at all.

In addition, BOC has not dealt with sanitary and water requirements, especially as it is likely that the campground will become essentially similar to an STR facility with frequent use by large parties. Neither did BOC listen to the testimony of neighbors in Tierra del Mar about the problems of tourist over-saturation in Tillamook County, which is serious and appears to be getting worse. It especially affects TDM and its neighborhood.
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