New flood maps pass planning commission

This FEMA flood plain map removes Cannon Beach's downtown area from the flood plain.

The planning commission unanimously voted to recommend the city council adopt the new flood maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A letter of determination, which ratifies the new maps, was sent by FEMA at the end of December, giving the city six months to either adopt or appeal the new maps.

The new flood plain hazard maps has long been a contentious issue in Cannon Beach. Since 2014, the new maps proposed by FEMA have shown flood hazard zones shrinking by 27 percent in Cannon Beach. The changes take almost all of downtown out of a zone that requires mandatory flood insurance.

Adopting the new flood maps, which help delineate which businesses and homes are required to pay mandatory FEMA flood insurance, were stalled by concerns with the draft coastal analysis in the Columbia River Estuary, as well as assessments of a levy in Warrenton.

While Gearhart, Seaside and Cannon Beach raised no concerns about the maps, separating out these communities from the estuary would have been costly and logistically difficult, according to FEMA.

Many businesses owners, like Steve Sinkler, the owner of The Wine Shack and Lazy Susan’s in downtown Cannon Beach, have been pressing to get these maps adopted for years as the current maps require many businesses to pay thousands in flood insurance that new maps show they don’t need.

“It’s important to business, and it’s important to the city to adopt these,” Sinkler said during public comment.

Breakers Point homeowner Frank Patrick urged the commission to recommend the maps to the City Council, as they virtually have “no downside” for Cannon Beach. Adopting these maps would also give businesses and homeowners that are currently in the flood zone an option for private flood insurance rather than being required to participate in FEMA flood insurance, which can be cheaper or more suited to the needs of a particular home or business.

“There’s nothing about this change that changes the risk or the hazards (of floods),” Patrick said. “It just has to do with how much you pay for it.”

With little debate, planning commissioners vote to recommend the new maps to the city council for adoption in May. The city must vote to adopt the maps before the end of June if the city still wishes to participate in the FEMA flood insurance program. Not doing so could result in penalties, City Planner Mark Barnes said.

Bruce Francis, manager of Breakers Point and a longtime proponent of the new maps, commended the planning commission for taking a step in the “right direction.”

“For those of us who have been around for 40 years, the update just makes sense,” he said.

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