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Big changes could be ahead for rental permits

The Cannon Beach City Council asked the Planning Commission to consider three potential ordinance changes to the short-term rental program, which they did in a series of public meetings which concluded March 28.

The council is considering eliminating the five-year unlimited permit, converting the once per 14 days rental permit to twice monthly, and removing owner financial penalties for owners who transition the property to a professional management agency.

On top of all those potential changes there’s Senate Bill 6 to consider, which is a bill in front of Oregon legislators proposing the elimination of the short-term rental industry altogether.

Planning Director Jeff Adams doesn’t think that has traction. “What I hear from my legislative working group is that they don’t see that going very far,” said Adams.

“From a local perspective, do what you do until the state tells you what not to do it. Cities can have more restrictive standards,” Adams said.

He suggested that the Planning Commission ignore what the state was doing and make recommendations for local legislation that met local needs.

Public comment covered a diverse spectrum of views.

One resident said that he has lived in three different places in Cannon Beach, always near a short-term rental property, he has personally never had any issues with them, and thought that further changes might diminish more more recent improvements and result in a significant loss of city revenue.

Another longtime resident said that visitors to short term rental properties were dangerous to kids on bikes and didn’t think vacationers would like it if Cannon Beach residents took five of their closest friends and partied for four days in southeast Portland. But safety and noise weren’t her only complaints, she and her employees have been booted from rentals repeatedly to convert them to short term rentals.

All of the commissioners were in agreement about two things; that there wasn’t enough of a difference between one rental per 14 days and twice monthly to justify an ordinance change, and that removing fees for owners using property management companies was reasonable and easy to support.

Where the commission didn’t have agreement was around how to approach the five-year unlimited short term rental permit.

The commission recommended that the City Council suspend new applications to the five-year unlimited short term rental permit system for up to two years to give the new code enforcement officer and software time to work, and requested that a budget assessment also be made. Current five-year unlimited permits would remain unaffected.

View from Angkor Wat

Although Angkor Wat in modern Cambodia is 900 years old, archaeologists are only beginning to research the history of the people who lived near the temple.

The massive temple, which covers an area half the size of Cannon Beach, was discussed by Alison Kyra Carter, Ph.D, assistant professor in the University of Oregon’s archaeology department, in a lecture at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum March 28.

The lecture was one of a series of lectures presented this year at the history center.

From the ninth to 15th centuries, the Angkor Empire included much of what today is Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and southern Vietnam; the capital city, Angkor, was in Cambodia. While the Cambodians always knew about Angkor Wat, the temple, overrun by jungle, was brought to public attention in a journal written by a French explorer in 1860.

Since the temple’s discovery beneath the tree trunks that grew over great parts of it, archaeologists have studied the structure for many years. But in 2013, with the use of a lidar laser scanner mounted on a helicopter, scientists discovered what may have been an entire village surrounding the temple. Laser beams penetrated the forest canopy and revealed a three-dimensional underground landscape, showing a grid of squares with a mound in each square. Archaeologists believe this grid could have been ancient streets and canals, and the mounds may have been where houses once stood.

Displaying a slide outlining the temple and the grid, Carter said, “Every time I see this, my heart jumps because it’s so exciting to see the original landscape around these temples.”

Through inscriptions on stone panels attached to the temple, researchers learned much about those who built the temple and the kings that ruled the empire — the upper 1 percent of the Angkorian society, Carter said.

“From 100 years of research on Angkor we have a really good idea about the top level of this society, but we don’t know anything about what the normal peoples’ lives were like.”

Political conflicts in Cambodia and the Vietnam War halted research for 25 years, beginning in 1970.

After the war, “there was a huge vacuum in human resources. (There were) thousands of sites, hundreds of Angkorian sites and almost no one left in the country who had any training or background in studying this culture and preserving these sites.”

A push by Cambodians and by foreign researchers to rebuild the training program in Cambodia has resulted in a large contingent of local archaeologists, Carter said.

Carter first became intrigued with Angkor as an undergraduate student; she has worked as an archaeologist at the village surrounding Angkor Wat as well as at Barsaet, another Angkor temple. Carter lived in Cambodia for a year while writing her Ph.D dissertation.

“There’s a lot to be done still; we’re really trying to understand the civilization, understand the people who lived here,” she said.

To do that, archaeologists are doing what Carter termed “household archaeology,” where the homes and artifacts of those who once lived in the temple village are being uncovered.

If each mound in the grid had a house on it and each household contained 10 family members, there could have been a population of 2,830 in the temple enclosure, Carter said.

Because the site is still forested and difficult to penetrate, archaeologists have “worked small and built up over time.” Those small excavations of a few mounds signaled that they may have, indeed, been households.

In 2015, they expanded their excavations and discovered post holes where houses might have stood and sandstone pieces that could have been parts of roads or flooring. They also found charcoal and a ring of stones and brick underneath it, indicating a possible cooking site, along with charred plant remains, including rice, citrus and ginger. Many ceramic pieces also were uncovered.

At one house where the archaeologists dug, “they had ceramics from all over the world; they had ceramics from China, and they had ceramics from the northern edge and from the southern edge of the Angkoran empire,” Carter said.

Carbon dating puts the ceramics at the 11th and 12th centuries, about the same time the temple was being built.

While it seems that houses were in the grid, many questions remain, Carter noted.

“We still don’t know who was there and what occupation they had….I strongly suspect they worked at the temple,” but researchers have yet to find the evidence. It is also uncertain whether people lived there permanently or temporarily, especially after Angkor Wat changed from being a Hindu temple to a Buddhist temple.

Carter returns to archaeological digs in Angkor during the summer. She noted that those who are interested in participating can contact Earthwatch Institute, which has spaces available in several seven- and 14-day expeditions from May 26 through June 13.

“If you watched this (slide show) and said, ‘I really want to get my hands dirty,’ you can join us in Cambodia and dig with us in the fields,” Carter said.

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Emergency kits for kids

The Cannon Beach Academy received a special delivery last week that marks an important step in the school’s effort to be prepared for keeping students safe during an emergency or natural disaster.

Jason Johnson, with Tonquin Trading Company, on Tuesday, April 9, dropped off several dozen emergency survival kits purchased with funds from a Cannon Beach community grant the academy recently received.

“We have to be able to rely on ourselves, because we don’t know what’s going to be available,” Cannon Beach Academy Director Amy Fredrickson said.

Each of the 55 lightweight Go Kits for Kids is designed to help a person survive for 72 hours, or three days, and includes a high-calorie food bar, light stick, hand warmer, emergency blanket, poncho, and packets of drinking water. The administration will then have parents add pictures, medications, extra clothing and a comforting item to their child’s kit. Each one will also receive a laminated name tag that includes the student’s emergency contact and allergy information.

Having acquired the Go Kits for Kids, the school can now incorporate them into tsunami drills, allowing the students to get used to wearing them while walking to the evacuation site. Another step is figuring out storage, Fredrickson said, or how to keep the packs out of the way for day-to-day operations, yet accessible in the event of an emergency.

From the inside, out

Outfitting the school with Go Kits for Kids is another step in building up the entire community and preparing for an emergency, which is Johnson’s specialty.

With a background doing risk mitigation on the oil fields of North Dakota, Johnson’s mission upon arriving in the Pacific Northwest a few years ago was to help the local communities prepare for the most significant natural disaster they face — a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami — “from the inside, out.”

“I don’t think anyone’s prepared to see the devastation we would experience in the current scenario,” Johnson said, adding that when humans go days without water or weeks without food, “You automatically go into survival mode, you don’t have a choice.”

He identified how hiking and outdoor apparel are already designed to be lightweight and durable, which incidentally makes them suitable products to be incorporated into emergency preparedness and resiliency. He then homed in on making those products available to the public, to both enhance their outdoor experiences while hiking and camping and to help them have adequate supplies to cope with the effects of a natural disaster.

He believes Cannon Beach’s efforts to build resiliency provide a good example for other coastal communities to follow. The ongoing process of planning for a natural emergency is also beneficial from a tourism perspective.

“You become the most prepared place on the coast, and suddenly, you become to safest place to visit on the coast,” Johnson said.

Education and preparation

In addition to the Go Kits for Kids, the academy also used the approximately $9146 community grant to enhance its food program and purchase two medical triage kits and items that would be necessary in the event of a lockdown. Additionally, the doors received new locks to keep intruders out.

“It’s assuring to know we have these safeguards,” Business Manager Ananda Osterhaus said. “It’s so important we can keep (students) safe in every way possible.

In the coming weeks, the school will hold meetings with teachers and parents to give them information about the kits and the school’s emergency plan.

“We do need to educate our kids and our families and our teachers,” Fredrickson said. “We need to educate ourselves and make sure we’re prepared and ready to respond.”

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Floral art, made from beach debris

Growing up, local artist and naturopathic doctor Mary Bess Gloria remembers perceiving the action of littering as a problem, particularly because it was her father’s pet-peeve.

As an adult, though, littering and the proliferation of plastic debris in the environment have assumed additional significance while also appealing to her artistic sensibilities, she said while leading a workshop for the Cannon Beach Arts Association and Haystack Rock Awareness Program titled “How Does Your Garden Grow: Beach Plastic Floral Assemblage” on March 23.

While walking the beach with her dogs, she began noticing the bits of plastic marine debris strewn about and “they just started calling out to me.”

First and foremost, Gloria began considering how she personally could be “less of a consumer of those particular things” that are carelessly or incidentally discarded, dangerously making their way into the environment. Even though no West Coast states have water quality standards that directly address micro-plastics, a common belief among activists, scientists and other concerned parties is humans should try to stop plastic from getting into waterways in the first place.

Secondly, Gloria identified a way to incorporate the trash into her creative process, using the colorful pieces as an artistic medium, similar to sea glass but much more abundant. Whether the impulse is instinctual or learned, she finds herself frequently gathering debris.

“Pretty much any beach I go to, I’ll pick up something,” she said.

During the workshop, she shared her process with attendees, demonstrating how plastic pieces pasted on canvas can portray planters from which painted or paper flowers blossom or a myriad of other elements within mixed-media artwork. She encouraged participants to use their imaginations, conceptualizing and using the plastic debris and additional items however they wanted, which led to mixed-media depictions of a mermaid and a beach landscape, along with other more abstract images.

One of the most important takeaways, Gloria told participants, quoting renowned American sculptor Duane Hanson, is “Art doesn’t have to be pretty; it has to be meaningful.”

The Trash Talk Workshops, made possible with funding from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, emphasize education. They serve as a venue for showing interested citizens how to use recycled beach debris and found ocean items in their art, in addition to helping them learn how they can partake in protecting the natural environment surrounding Cannon Beach’s iconic Haystack Rock.

The arts association has several Saturday workshops remaining in the series, including:

• Hand Woven Beach Baskets, with Susan Spence, on April 20

• The Ripple Effect: Plastic Marine Debris Mandalas, with Shelby Silver, on May 4

• Natural Science Illustration: Puffin Portraits, with Dorota Haber-Lehigh, on May 18

For more information or to register, visit cannonbeacharts.org or call 971-361-9308.