Cannon Beach property owner prevails in LUBA decision

A home currently located on the .57-acre property owned by Jeff Nicholson. A Land Use Board of Appeals ruling gives an OK to his four-home subdivision plan.

An attempt to block the city’s approval of a north-end development project got shut down last week with a decision by the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

The city of Cannon Beach and Portland resident Jeff Nicholson won an OK to build and eventually sell three new homes on his 0.57-acre North Laurel St. property purchased in 2014 for $900,000. A fourth home on the property will be rebuilt with a condition that the home’s wood, beams and windows be salvaged.

“It was the decision we were hoping for,” Will Rasmussen, an attorney who represented the property owner, said Monday. “The decision was, frankly, a win for Cannon Beach. LUBA decided that Cannon Beach followed all the rules they needed to follow in approving this.”

After the city’s Planning Commission denied Nicholson’s application in December 2014, the Cannon Beach City Council reviewed the application. In February, the council voted to tentatively approve the application. In early March, councilors voted to adopt the findings by a 4-1 vote.

A group of local citizens — Jeff Harrison, Cleve Rooper, Dale Hintz, Linda Hintz, Elizabeth Lorish, Jane Emrick, Diane Amos, Rex Amos, Mindy Hardwick and Robin Risley — challenged the decision in a brief before the Land Use Board of Appeals. Many in the group were neighbors to the property at 532 N. Laurel St. where the development would take place.

They said the city failed to comply with timing requirements for notices, made mistaken references to the Design Review Board and improperly closed council hearings to new evidence.

In their decision, the three-member appeals board acknowledged the Feb. 10 City Council hearing “contained some errors,” but wrote that the mistakes did not rise to the level of a procedural error that would have caused the petitioners to “fail to prepare for and submit their case to the City Council.”

The appeals board concluded Nicholson’s plans for his 24,800-square-foot property met the allowable density for the city’s residential zone. The R-2 zone’s minimum density for the subject property is one dwelling per 5,000 square feet.

“The petition raised largely a number of procedural concerns, and a number of procedural concerns that were not raised by the petitioners in the local decision,” Rasmussen said. “LUBA found that the process used by the city followed all the state laws and local laws, and approved the decision.”

Nicholson does not have immediate building plans, but the decision opens the way for four houses on the property, Rasmussen said.

Plans must conform to those submitted, “so the neighbors can be assured we won’t be building up to their property line,” Rasmussen said.

Other conditions include repair of any potential damage to Laurel Street during the construction process and a shared access driveway between the four homes.

A certified arborist will examine spruce trees, and within a year of the preliminary approval, the final plan will be submitted to show utilities to the houses. Only one driveway will access Laurel Street.

An attorney for the neighbors did not return a call requesting comment and city officials also declined to comment.

With the appeals board decision, plans for the subdivision are ready to move forward, Rasmussen said.

“We need to have a conversation with the city,” he said. “The applicant would like to move forward as soon as we can with the next step.”

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