CANNON BEACH — “After dealing with this project for God knows how long, anybody around this, I don’t think anybody at this table, has a clue what it’s going to look like,” Cannon Beach Planning Commissioner Joe Bernt said.
His comment drew the second-largest round of applause at the commission’s Thursday meeting.
The loudest came after the body voted 6-0 against recommending approval of property owner Jeff Nicholson’s proposed four-unit plan.
Despite the decision, commissioners anticipate their recommendation will again be disregarded by the City Council.
After the city’s Planning Commission denied Nicholson’s application in December 2014, the Cannon Beach City Council reviewed the application and gave temporary approval in February.
In early March, councilors voted to adopt the findings by a 4-1 vote.
Nicholson seeks to convert his half-acre North Laurel Street lot and 100-year-old cottage into four family-sized homes.
A fourth home on the property will be rebuilt with a condition that the home’s wood, beams and windows be salvaged.
The property was purchased in 2014 for $900,000.
Now in its third and final phase, and after successfully fending off the challenge in the Land Use Board of Appeals court, the application was reopened by the Planning Commission in December. That hearing was carried over to allow further public comment, as the Planning Commission claimed jurisdiction to approve or deny Nicholson’s application on the basis it was incomplete.
While speaking on behalf of the “Friends of Cannon Beach,” a group formed to protest the development, Cannon Beach resident Jeff Harrison asked those in opposition to stand. He counted 27 people.
Commissioners asked Nicholson and his attorney for specifics, including when and how the new houses would be built, what they would look like, how trees would be protected, how the yard would be landscaped and shared, and how nearby neighbors would be protected should construction cause any collateral damage.
Nicholson said any residences erected on the property would be subject to compliance with Cannon Beach’s existing building codes.
“I have the followed the rules to a T on this,” Nicholson said. “I kind of expect everyone else to follow the rules to a T, so it’s disappointing to me when they don’t.”
Commissioners unanimously voted against the proposal.
“There were too many problems with it,” Kerr said. “If you have 10 things that bother you, you just have no frame to even start with. There’s not even a skeleton to flesh out.”
Despite the commission’s decision, the project will move forward unless the City Council does an about-face.
“Maybe the City Council will look at things a little more closely this time,” Commissioner Lisa Kerr said.
“Maybe they will,” said Bernt. “Maybe they won’t.”
The City Council is expected to consider final approval at their March meeting.
“For the Planning Commission to completely disregard the Land Use Board of Appeals and City Council decisions is just mind-boggling,” Nicholson said. “I’m confident the City Council will judge the application for its merits.”