I have had property in the north end of Cannon Beach for 25 years. I love Cannon Beach and will retire fulltime there someday. About two years ago, I saw 532 N. Laurel St. come up for sale. I had noticed that property since I was a child with the two gigantic, old-growth spruce trees and the stately old cottage that you see from the beach. Some of my acquaintances in town told me that the people making offers on the place planned to replace the 101-year-old home with a gigantic new house. This didn’t make any sense to me because the property totals 25,000 square feet in an R2 zone that calls for 5,000-square-foot lots. In fact, the property was already platted in 1890 with 5,000-square-foot lots. I called the city and was told that the new purchaser could build a single 15,000-square-foot house anywhere on the property within the normal setbacks with no variance or public process whatsoever. One can easily see the devastating effect a home like that would have on the neighboring properties. My own beach house being only two blocks away.

Too many family-sized homes have been replaced with “McMansions” in Cannon Beach over the last 20 years. I do not like that word, but I don’t have a better one to describe the phenomenon. You see an old house on the block disappear and a new house pop up that is many times larger than any other house on the block. I decided to buy 532 N. Laurel and put three normal-sized homes on the existing historic lots and rebuild the 101-year-old place. This fits in perfectly with the neighborhoods of Cannon Beach and with the feel that I like about Cannon Beach.

Since buying the property, I have been in the land use process for over a year and a half. This seems excessive since a 15,000-square-foot home is permitted on the site with no public process. However, I have gone through every step of the process and provided the city with everything required under the city’s code. The City Council approved a four-home planned development for the site last year, which Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) affirmed. I am now in the third and final stage of the approval process. It was disappointing that the Planning Commission recently disregarded both the City Council’s and LUBA’s prior decisions on the project and recommended that the council deny my application at this very last stage. I have been delayed for almost two years and spent a half of a million dollars in order to build normal-sized homes at a lesser density than exists in most of this R2 residential neighborhood.

The City Council and LUBA previously rejected many of the reasons offered by the Planning Commission for recommending denial.

It truly borders on the absurd to think of the amount of resources that were spent — by both the city and myself — to simply build a normal-sized home in an R2 residential zone in complete accordance to the City of Cannon Beach Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Commission and the small group called “Friends of Cannon Beach” are anything but that. They would limit homeowners’ options for historic lots such as these to a single, large McMansion. What is the motive of these misguided groups? They certainly do not come close to representing what the vast majority of Cannon Beach wants and they certainly are not in alignment with the City of Cannon Beach Comprehensive plan.

Below are provisions from the Cannon Beach Comprehensive Plan Vision Statement:

“Cannon Beach will continue to be a small town where the characteristics of a village are fostered and promoted. Both the physical and social dimensions associated with a village will be integral to Cannon Beach’s evolution during the next two decades.”

The elements of the town’s physical form, which the plan will foster are:

“Buildings that are generally small in scale and appropriate to their setting,” and “A rustic streetscape that permits informal private landscaping and irregular lines to roadway improvements.”

As you can see, the building of normal, cottage-sized homes on 50 x 100 foot historic lots are just like the other existing homes in the neighborhood and they would fit in exactly with what is called for by the Comprehensive Plan.

My proposal meets every code requirement as previously determined by the council and LUBA. Nothing has changed in my proposal from the plan that was previously approved. I do not ask for any special treatment from the city, but I do hope and expect that the City Council will follow its code in reaching its final decision on my application.

Jeff Nicholson

Portland

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