The City of Cannon Beach is in the process of reviewing its foredune management plan.
The City Council will hold its initial work session on the plan at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Tolovana Inn. In the days following, the city will conduct public hearings.
The city’s Planning Commission has completed its review and in a letter to the mayor and council submitted its proposed amendments to the plan - with reservations, as stated in the following letter:
“The Cannon Beach Planning Commission submits to the City Council the accompanying Foredune Management Plan amendments to the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Municipal Code, but does so with Reservations. As the Council is aware, the City’s current Comprehensive Plan allows for foredune management in order to maintain views but does not require the City to allow such dune grading. During an extensive public process focused on these matters, it became clear to the Planning Commission that there is no consensus, either among Cannon Beach residents or on the Commission, to allow such dune grading.
“Many Cannon Beach residents opposed dune grading for views. In fact, some residents favored placing the issue on a ballot. Accordingly, the Planning Commission recommends that the City Council carefully consider whether to allow dune grading for views at all, and that you adopt the accompanying Foredune Management Plan only to the extent that the Council decides to allow such grading activities.”
City Community Development Director Jeff Adams said the plan is under review because more recent science is available on the dune grasses used for stabilization of the sand.
Dianna Turner is a member of the Friends of the Dunes at Cannon Beach. The group opposes dune grading. “We tried grading, it was a failure,” Turner said in an interview Sunday. “We would like the city to be brave enough to say ‘no more dune grading for views.’”
Another aspect of the issue is the type of grass to plant on the dunes after a portion of the sand has been removed. “The European beach grass grabs the sand and gives you more protection from a storm,” Turner said.
The Planning Commission recommends “co-planting” both European and American beach grass, combining the different benefits of each, as stated in the plan.
The Friends of the Dunes is concerned about what happens to razor clams when the sand is dumped in large quantities back into the ocean. “At tideline, razor clams are drowned by the incredible amounts of sand…” Turner said.
Mike Morgan is a planning consultant for the Ocean Avenue homeowners. These individual beachfront homes span five blocks and consist of about 20 houses, Morgan said in an interview Monday.
He said he also is a planning consultant for Breakers Point at Cannon Beach, which is a development of 72 beachfront condominiums. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years and would like to continue to remove a certain amount of dunes and restore them,” said Morgan, speaking for the homeowners.
The grading is done mostly for the purpose of capturing ocean views, he said. “The dunes have grown substantially since (the homeowners) bought their homes.” The dunes can increase in height 7 to 8 feet a year.
The proposed city plan is consistent with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recommended level for protection against a storm, said Morgan. The proposal adds an additional 4 feet to that level, for a total of 32 feet.
Turner said it is a question of the beachfront property views versus the views of the dunes enjoyed by the public walking the beach. “In order for these folks to get their views,” the views enjoyed by the public at the beach are sacrificed, she said.
“Instead of beautiful views, we see a decimated view.”
Morgan said in a follow-up email Monday: “To reiterate, the various homeowners along the oceanfront agree with the plan amendments as well as the ordinance revisions, which allow for continued grading of the foredunes for view enhancement.
“This has been occurring every couple of years for the last twenty years, ever since the State of Oregon changed the Beaches and Dunes Goal (#18) to permit it. In over a dozen projects since that time, the “scraped” dunes have been immediately replanted and have continued to grow in a natural way, forming peaks and valleys over a few years.
“The goal is not to destroy the dunes, but to manage an artificial environment to benefit people who live on the foredunes as well as visitors that walk along the shore.”