Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter

Annexations, Appeals and New Ideas

Roberts House: A Victory and an Appeal: Hearing December 8

Benedick Holdings Annexation in Florence: A Bad Idea

Should OSU Take Over the Elliott State Forest?
Roberts House: A Victory and an Appeal: Hearing December 8
The proposed Roberts house on the Hemlock S-Curve, showing the proposed driveway on pillars.
Good News! The Cannon Beach planning commission unanimously turned down the Roberts house application, proposed to be built on Nenana Avenue off Hemlock Street, right at the dangerous S-curve. The Roberts argued that the Oceanfront Setback did not apply to them (because a platted right-of-way is between them and the shore), and they therefore refused to alter their plans to accommodate its rules. But the planning commission rightly held that the right-of-way is not a buildable lot, and the Roberts had to comply with the oceanfront setback like all other owners in the area. The Roberts claimed this would mean they could not build anything on their lot. But looking at comparative houses in Cannon Beach shows the Roberts could build a very nice house of an average size for Cannon Beach under the setback rules.

In addition, the Roberts house proposal is adjacent to the famous Oswald West cabin, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and would dramatically impact the viewshed in the Haystack Rock area. The applicant’s own drawing of the house and pillared driveway (above) make the impact clear.

As expected, the Roberts have appealed the denial to City Council, which will hold the hearing on December 8th, at 5:30 pm. Please email testimony to planning@ci.cannon-beach.or.us.
Benedick Holdings Annexation in Florence: A Bad Idea
Benedick Holdings LLC Annexation Proposal. Courtesy City of Florence
Benedick Holdings LLC wants to annex about 48 acres of “vacant” land, which has forest, dunes and seasonal lakes, into the city of Florence. Why? To develop a single family lot subdivision like all the others in the immediate area of Oceana Drive and Kelsie Court. Though Florence proposed to place city zones on it that include Low Density Residential and Prime Wildlife Overlay, there will not be any wildlife left if this annexation is successful: as the city’s Findings state, “The applicant petitioned for the annexation of combined property…to City of Florence jurisdiction for the eventual purpose of subdividing it into single-family lots with connection to City sewer service.”

The question at this point in the process is whether the proposal meets Florence’s annexation policies. Its Annexation Policy 3 requires “orderly economic provision” for public facilities — including sewer, stormwater control and transportation. All of these are problematic. A new neighborhood sewer pumping station would be required, and existing properties on the annexation right-of-way would have to connect to the sewer line, as required by state law. The city has also not determined whether other houses in the area with onsite septic will have to connect to the sewer line, and whether the city can accommodate the increased usage. 

Stormwater management is another tough issue, as the property is largely wetlands and seasonal lakes that persist for weeks, and often cause neighborhood flooding in combination with high rainfall. The city does not have the infrastructure to handle additional stormwater collection and discharge in the area. Finally, the city has not grappled with the transportation issues. Oceana Drive is classified as a “local road,” and is substandard now. Adding another large development will not improve the traffic problems that currently exist, and neither the applicant nor the city have addressed the questions.

The seasonal lakes are classified as Significant Wetlands, which obligates the city to protect them. In addition, Florence has failed to deal with the public health and safety issues arising from annexing seasonal lakes into the city limits for purposes of facilitating a subdivision around and even in those lakes. 

The Florence planning commission will make its recommendation on the Benedick proposal in early December, and then City Council hearings will be scheduled. Concerned about this proposal? Please contact ORCA Director Cameron La Follette for further information, at cameron@oregoncoastalliance.org
Should OSU Take Over the Elliott State Forest?
Elliott State Forest. Courtesy Oregon Department of Forestry
The Department of State Lands and Oregon State University continue to work on the details of transferring the Elliott State Forest to OSU as a “research forest” and uncoupling it from the Common School Fund to free its management from heavy logging to produce revenue for schools.

The proposal as it is shaping up has some very good aspects. For example, the proposal would protect some 93% of the Elliott that is above sixty-five years old, and create a 34,000 acre contiguous reserve that will allow the forest to ultimately consist of more than 70% older forest within fifty years. The OSU Plan would also work to advance recovery of imperiled species.

But there are also several large gaps in the proposal. For one thing, OSU is not really a public agency, and the Elliott plan must provide for strong and continuing public oversight and accountability. Also, if OSU fails to honor its obligations once transfer is effected, there must be a mechanism in place to allow complete reversion back to DSL.

Is OSU capable of managing such a large forest as a highly valuable asset much loved in the local coastal communities, and of critical importance to the coastal forest ecosystems of the region? There have thus far been problems of involving experts in needed fields, use of best available science such as watershed analysis, riparian science and baseline data, and failure to provide comprehensive information in timely fashion. Managing the Elliott will be a new experience for OSU, and if this massive experiment in public and OSU partnership is to work, OSU needs to change some of its traditional ways of managing, logging and researching. The Elliott is not private land, nor would it be a typical OSU research forest, focusing mainly on timber-related research using traditional methods such as clearcutting and herbicide applications. It would be a public forest in OSU’s hands for conservation, restoration, recreation and innovative research such as on climate change and carbon storage.

DSL is overseeing this process. An additional year or more of work is yet to be done on clarifying the details of the project, and ORCA (along with many other organizations) urges DSL to ensure, before any deeds change hands, that OSU is up to the task of managing a new and unique kind of public research/conservation forest.