Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
New and Revised Proposals for Coastal Development
Gearhart Considers Zone Change for Subdivision on Agricultural and Wetland Property: Next hearing October 11th 
Aerial View of Gearhart, Oregon. Courtesy Amos Meron/Wikimedia
Palmberg Paving owns 27 acres of land in Gearhart, on the east side of Highway 101. The land is "vacant" except for remnants of past paving operations at the north end. And it is full of wetlands, nine of them. There are more than ten acres of wetlands, and four and a half acres of open water.  Palmberg  recently submitted an application to the city to change the zoning from Residential Agriculture to a medium density residential zone. This will require a Comprehensive Plan change.The conceptual plan for  the development  indicates they are currently  thinking  to build a 25-lot single family subdivision. But as the staff report noted, maximum development could theoretically be forty, or maybe forty-five, single family residences at various levels of density, and some apartments as well. Of the 27-acre property, about seven and a half acres are buildable, thanks mainly to  the wetlands .The actual development is not part of this application, which is only for the  rezone.

Is this subdivision a good idea? It would certainly bring many changes to a very rural area. The Gearhart City Manager noted that Pacific Way, the street nearest the proposed  development, would  need to be repaired and widened to support the extra traffic. Clatsop County told Gearhart that the existing residential agriculture zoning is supposed to be a buffer between the more urban zoning in the main area of Gearhart to the west, and the rural zoning of unincorporated lands to the east. The county asked what Gearhart might do to limit the development to small numbers of houses.

There is much discussion in city planning documents of the need for affordable housing in the north coast region. No question this is a serious need in Gearhart. But the conceptual plans for this development do not target affordable housing. As the staff report notes, if the zone change succeeds, "a developer will have the option to build a variety of dwelling types including more affordable homes in Gearhart." That's all: the developer would have the opportunity. But as the Windermere real estate broker representing the owners noted in a recent Daily Astorian article, homes could sell in the $300,000 range: "The big demand is in the $350,000 price range and down." A house costing $300,000 could only be considered "affordable" by  a questionable  stretch of the imagination, and would  not help  fill the need for workforce housing.

Given the large wetland complexes, and the property's being contiguous with rural lands to the east, ORCA thinks the best solution for this property would be a regional park. Not all land inside an urban growth boundary needs to be urbanized, especially not  land adjacent to  wetlands, for yet more upscale single family dwellings. Wetlands are highly sensitive to water table changes, and  a development  on seven acres would have large effects on the many interconnected wetlands in the area. 

The initial planning commission hearing was continued to October 11th. Testimony on this proposed rezone may be submitted   here .

Clatsop Planning Commission Recommends Against Dollar General Store in Knappa ! Next hearing: October 10th 
Dollar General Store in Clarksville, TN. Courtesy Mike Kalasnik/Wikimedia
Dollar General is proposing a new retail store in the very rural community of Knappa, outside of Astoria. Dollar General is a large, retail chain store corporation, with more than 14,000 stores nationwide. They tend to target small rural communities, advertising themselves as providing "much-needed necessities for tourists and local residents," but many investigative news articles have disclosed Dollar General's deceptive pricing, and stock of major national brands rather than locally or regionally-produced items. Dollar General also tends to drive out local stores, which cannot compete with the artificially low prices Dollar can offer, as documented time and time again all over the country.

Clatsop County planning staff recommended against the proposed store, because County ordinances require that under the rural commercial zone, a project must "contribute to community identity," which Dollar General stores do not: each store looks like every other store and carries the same products, as the staff report notes. Not only that, but the company focused on how Knappa meets its needs, but not on how it meets Knappa's needs. The store would compete with the Country Market in nearby Svenson, which is a local store carrying many local items, including produce and fresh meat.  As residents  pointed out, the Dollar General would also compete with a new farm, Blackberry Bog Farmstead, opened in 2015 in Svenson, and Two Old Goats, the Knappa feed and farm store, which has  operated  in the community for more than forty years.

The Clatsop County planning commission listened to residents' concerns, and voted unanimously to recommend against the proposed store. Because this application includes a Comprehensive Plan change to allow a 9,100 square foot store in a zone that usually limits commercial buildings to 4,000 square feet, the application must be heard by the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners. The BOC hearing is October 10th at 6:00 PM, at 857 Commercial Street in Astoria. Please, if you live locally and are concerned for the future of the community, attend or send testimony! Testimony may be submitted   here .

Keiser's Bandon Beach Hotel New Application Coming Soon 
Revised Bandon Beach Hotel Proposal. Courtesy Steere Bandon Associates
Steere Bandon Associates' application for a zone code text amendment prior to moving ahead to build a new Bandon Beach Hotel was turned down by the Bandon planning commission a few months ago. The rejection cited various reasons, including the company's request for a height increase, larger lot coverage than ordinances allow, and a hotel concept that did not fit the neighborhood. Rather than hold another hearing before City Council where the same controversial issues would arise, Steere Bandon (a Michael Keiser company) pulled its application from consideration in order to revise it. They have now submitted a revised pre-application, with full details to follow.

The proposal is the same as before, except scaled down slightly in order to avoid the need for a zone change. The applicants  state the hotel  will be 24 feet tall, with setbacks that meet ordinance requirements, and lot coverage under 50%. But it remains a big glass box, sited on a  geologically unstable  clifftop, that does not fit the neighborhood, does not benefit the Coquille Point Unit of the Refuge, and does not solve the problem of there being a hotel at all in a location that was supposed to be part of the Refuge, being surrounded by it on nearly all sides.  ORCA remains opposed to the revised Bandon Beach Hotel for all these reasons.

Once the full application has been submitted, the city of Bandon will schedule hearings on the proposal.

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