Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
Continued Hearings and a Victory
Bandon Beach Hotel Hearing: Continued into January 
Revised Bandon Beach Hotel, View from the Southwest. Courtesy City of Bandon
Bandon planning commission had first hearing on the revised application for the Bandon Beach Hotel, and heard much testimony about the proposal. The hearing has been continued to January 24th, so there will be further opportunity for public testimony.

There are many very serious questions about rebuilding a new hotel on the site of the current motel, even though the applicants made it slightly smaller in order to avoid the need for a variance on height limit and lot coverage. The Bandon Comprehensive Plan has many policies about protecting the Coquille Point Unit of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which is adjacent to the hotel site. The concerns all revolve around protecting this area of natural importance, its wildlife habitat, the  critical  buffering Coquille Point provides to the offshore haystacks of the Refuge,  safeguarding  the  viewshed, and  similar matters. Most important is Special Policy 2, which requires any applicant proposing to develop within 100 feet of the Refuge boundary "demonstrate that the proposal will have no adverse impact on the function of the Refuge." Nothing in the applicant's materials considers this problem, nor has the planning commission thus far considered analyzing the proposal from the point of view of harm to the Refuge.

This is especially  important because  the hotel site is in a geologically unstable area. The US Fish and Wildlife Service closed the much-used Coquille Point South Stairway in 2014 because geological movement had destabilized it. The 2015 report on the stairway described how the stairway is affected by creep of adjacent slopes, especially in active landslide deposits. The toe of the slope on the beach is also unstable due to wave action and rainfall, and the face of the slope is fragile because of surface seepage and spring activity. This area is directly adjacent to the hotel location, and the hotel sits atop the same cliff as the staircase.

Building a new hotel in this area is certainly inappropriate to the residential neighborhood, as it would be even larger than the current one, which has 24 rooms. The new Keiser hotel would have 32 rooms, plus 60 parking spaces across the street.  In addition, given  the well-documented and extensive geological instability in this location, the hotel would definitely have an adverse impact on the Refuge. Please participate in the continued hearings on this proposal in January.

Gearhart Denies Palmberg Paving Rezone for Housing Next to Wetlands! 
Aerial View of Gearhart, Oregon. Courtesy Amos Meron/Wikimedia
Gearhart City Council denied the proposal to rezone some twenty-seven acres of mostly wetlands, owned by Palmberg Paving Company, from Residential Agriculture to Medium Density Residential. The Gearhart planning commission had recommended denial of this application. According to city documents, the site consists of a four-acre manmade lake and nine wetlands. It has a high water table, and there is evidence of soil contamination from an auto wrecking yard in one area. Because of all the wetlands, the actual buildable area of the property was about seven acres of the entire  twenty-seven. Palmberg  provided a conceptual plan  for twenty -five single family houses, probably selling in the $300,000 range, for the property. Without a zone change, the existing zoning might allow up to twenty clustered homes on the non-wetlands part of the property, but only as a conditional use. 

City Council found the city plans and ordinances cannot mandate a denser housing opportunity on the site than current zoning provides. Most importantly, the Council found Palmberg had not demonstrated that the rezone would meet a land use need, especially for affordable housing - or that, even if there were a need, that Palmberg would satisfy it. Council also rightly decided that the many wetlands would not be protected simply by prohibiting development on the wetlands themselves. The necessary roads, utilities and septic systems are not compatible with the protections required by the city's overlay zone protecting freshwater wetlands from conflicting uses such as filling, drainage and tree removal. Finally, Council determined that the lower density housing allowed under the Residential Agriculture zone minimizes houses susceptible to flood hazards in this low-lying area. Gearhart made the best decision under the land use laws for the good of the community and its land base, and ORCA thanks the City Council.

Newport Struggles With Vacation Rental Policies 
The Nye Beach Arch. Courtesy Hrare/Wikimedia
Newport is struggling with a perennial costal problem: how to regulate vacation dwelling units (VRDs). Nearly all coastal towns have faced this issue, some multiple times, and the solutions to the problems and opportunities of VRDs are many. Newport wants to overhaul its ordinances on VRDs, and the city planning commission has been studying options via a work group formed earlier this year. They have considered many options, and have now begun the formal hearings process. ORCA supports some of the proposals, such as creating a restrictive citywide cap to limit VRDs proliferation, and ensuring that the VRD license cannot be transferred with the property. Each new owner should make a decision about whether to have a VRD, and should also have to apply for a new license from the City of Newport. Such a policy would prevent neighborhoods from becoming investment opportunities for out-of-town entities. We also support having a residency requirement for VRD owners, to limit out-of-state speculation that would affect the residential housing supply.

Finally, ORCA supports the proposal to prohibit VRDs in R-1 and R-2 neighborhoods, restrict them in other residential zones, and funnel them into commercial zones. The only problem with this proposal as currently conceived is that it would make the historic neighborhood of Nye Beach the sacrifice zone and dumping ground for Newport's VRDs. This is because Nye Beach is zoned for commercial use. This unique part of Newport consists of mixed-use neighborhood housing and small-scale commercial, and it is protected with an overlay zone specifically designed to  safeguard  it. Many city plans and policies have language about  preserving  Nye Beach's character, and they require the city to ensure Nye Beach retains its own unique and vibrant atmosphere.

Newport lawmakers can easily avoid sacrificing Nye Beach to VRDs by ensuring that the proposed restrictions on VRDs for residential zones apply to Nye Beach as well. The Comprehensive Plan language is strong that directs the city  to ensure the vibrant Nye Beach neighborhood  continues to flourish, and the city must heed these longstanding visionary regulations. ORCA will continue participating in this process  to define how Newport can live with the burgeoning market for vacation rentals and still preserve its neighborhoods as pleasant places to live.

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