In November 2015, Councilor Benefield was quoted as saying: “I’m not opposed to grading… I’m just opposed to doing something without knowing what its effect is going to be.” (Daily Astorian, Nov. 10, 2015)
The City of Cannon Beach then embarked on a four-year, $100,000 project to study the effects of dune grading, which concluded there is no scientific or environmental rationale to prevent grading for views, grading to allow for public access, or grading to prevent buildings from being inundated.
Councilor Benefield is a retired engineer and scientist, and knows how to interpret a scientific document and the conclusions of Dr. Jonathan Allan of DOGAMI, CREST, the planning commission, the city planning staff and the city council.
Councilor McCarthy is a journalist who covered many planning commission hearings where grading was approved, and certainly knows a fact when she sees it.
Councilor Risley is a realtor who has sold numerous Breakers Point condominiums, assuring buyers that the city has a “process” to grade dunes.
Mayor Steidel and Councilor Ogilvie served on the planning commission for many years, during which they voted in favor of several dune-grading applications.
I am sure that each of the councilors are people who believe in the science behind global warming and climate change, and are horrified by those - like the current occupant of the White House - who would denigrate 99% of the scientific community.
However, by voting to ban grading for views, they are saying the Allan Report, the draft dune management plan, and the proposed plan and ordinance that the commission laboriously drafted over a two-year period are irrelevant, and the science doesn’t matter.
Apparently, the signatures collected by Diana Turner, many of which were from petitions posted at Powell’s Books in Portland and from Arch Cape and Nehalem, outweigh the scientific evidence, the empirical evidence from 20 years of grading, and the testimony of 120 oceanfront homeowners who are poised over time to suffer real economic losses.
None of the major opponents of dune grading, Diana Turner or Jeff Harrison are voting citizens of Cannon Beach, nor have they made any contribution to civic life other than this misguided effort.
The planning commission was asked by staff, over 13 hearings and workshops, whether or not dune grading for views should be outright banned, and the answer was always no. It was only after the plan and ordinances were completed that some of the commissioners had “buyer’s remorse” and wrote a request to the council that they should consider whether or not to ban grading for views.
Rather than base their objections on the Allan Report or other scientific evidence, or environmental concerns, opponents referred to the aesthetics of grading, that it was “ugly.”
It was clear from the hearings that few thought the act of dune grading was environmentally destructive, most acknowledging that European beachgrass was an invasive species. They just prefer higher dunes, regardless of their impact on others.
One of the planning commissioners cautioned you about “fear,” implying that the city was being threatened. This is so typically inappropriate, coming from this individual, conjuring some sort of dark force attacking the council or city, and is in fact a threat in itself.
This is a legal and civic proceeding, not a morality play involving life or death, and they should know better.
This is the same individual who unsuccessfully requested Dr. Allan to remove sections of his report that were favorable to grading for view protection. Dr. Allan refused to do this.
I call on reasonable members of the council to put a pause on the proceedings and consider the impacts of their decision.
Mike Morgan is a former mayor of Cannon Beach and a consultant to the homeowners’ association along the Cannon Beach beachfront.