Homeowners say they have the right to grade dunes

Sand is piling up next to Breakers Point, blocking the view for some homeowners.

Should dune grading wait until Cannon Beach’s sand management plan is complete? The Planning Commission thinks so. Despite homeowner opposition, commission members want an amendment to the city’s zoning code which would prohibit foredune grading until that plan is delivered.

“Why should this amendment be allowed?” Breakers Point homeowner Frank Patrick asked planning commissioners on Oct. 22. “Or, more importantly, why is it necessary?”

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the Cannon Beach City Council held a public hearing on the amendment and after discussion, tabled the issue until future notice.

Foredune grading applies to two sites, Breakers Point and the presidential streets, and is done to maintain views or prevent inundation.

While Breakers Point homeowners were granted permission to grade 13,700-cubic-yards of sand in August, a condition of the permit was a delay of further grading until the sand management plan is developed and the revegetation plan is evaluated for success.

In September, the council asked the commission to amend the ordinance to reflect that condition.

At the Oct. 22 Planning Commission meeting, Patrick said the commission and the City Council are responding to the interests only of “a few very vocal people who are saying we have to preserve the dunes” and not Cannon Beach homeowners.

“The sand management plan is a sand management plan, not a dune preservation plan,” he added.

A sand management plan is expected to be delivered in 12 to 18 months.

Commissioner Lisa Kerr said the city’s sand management study may conclude that leaving the dunes alone is best, or that grading is the right choice.

“We just don’t know what the end result will be,” she added.

Breakers Point homeowner Ed Stone said it does not seem legal to prohibit dune grading under state land use guidelines. Patrick also said the amendment constitutes a moratorium that violates state law.

“You folks are trying to change the rules of the game,” Stone said, adding he wants city officials to abide by the law.

“Obviously if we don’t agree with you, that doesn’t mean that we’re not following the rules,” Kerr said. “It means that we don’t agree with you on how that gets implemented, what the rules are and what that means.”

Patrick said sand could pile up another 15 feet during the grading prohibition period — “a real problem” when it comes to safety and maintaining beach access Breakers Point Homeowners Association Property Manager Bruce Francis added the city asked them to put in the dune grass that is trapping sand and exacerbating the problem. There are dunes nearly 50 feet high near Breakers Point now as a result of meeting the city’s original guidelines.

“We’re all happy with what the city gave us,” he noted, referring to an August decision to grant limited grading at Breakers Point. “We now have permission to move to the next phase.”

Francis said he didn’t understand why the commission felt the need to amend the ordinance. To acquire a permit for dune grading would take about 18 to 24 months, the time it may take to finish the sand management plan.

If an amendment is to be considered, the commission needs to “at least put a time limit on” the dune grading prohibition, Francis said.

Currently there is no sunset date for delivery of the sand management plan, he added.

Kerr said a deadline could create further conflict if the sand management plan process runs longer than a proposed sunset date.

Commissioner Joseph Bernt, Kerr, Chair Bob Lundy and Charles Bennett voted to approve the amendment recommendation. Ryan Dewey was the lone dissenting vote.

If the proposal had been approved by the City Council, it would not have impacted the Breakers Point dune grading approval or any remedial projects, such as sand removal to keep storm drains flowing.


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