What kind of magical thinking led Diana Turner and Lisa Kerr to the conclusion that 100 oceanfront property owners would not challenge the City of Cannon Beach’s recent ordinance banning a practice that has been carried out for the last 20 years?
Kerr is “shocked, shocked!” that the owners would do such a thing, after leading the charge at the planning commission, and as a member of ORCA and Friends of the Dunes.
After the city spent $100,000 on Dr. Allan’s report and two years of staff time to develop an ordinance that would continue grading as before, Kerr, Turner and others convinced the city council that “there was no consensus.” If that was true, why did the planning commission spend 13 meetings and public hearings crafting the wording line by line, then present it to the council with a suggestion that it could go either way?
The Friends of the Dunes make several erroneous statements in the recent letter:
• THE DUNES BELONG TO THE STATE OF OREGON. Actually, most of the dune area from Jackson to Washington streets was purchased by a family on Ocean Avenue who wanted to prevent it from being developed. A large part of the dunes in front of Breakers Point Condominiums is owned by the homeowners’ association. The Chapman Point lots, each two acres, run down to the vegetation line and are privately owned.
• THE DUNES ARE A VALUABLE PUBLIC ASSET. This is correct, and the dunes along Ocean Avenue are open to all and are heavily used. Ocean Avenue has become the city’s promenade since the 12’ dune that existed up until 2003 was taken down. All of the walkers, photographers and people driving would still be looking at a huge wall of sand for the six-block length.
• THE DUNES ARE A CRUCIAL PART OF CANNON BEACH’S ECONOMY AND BEAUTY. True enough, but the “Friends” played a zero-sum game by insisting that 100 owners lose their views and substantial value for an aesthetic argument.
• THE DUNES PROVIDE A CRITICAL BULWARK. The next tsunami will ignore the dunes and come rushing around them, inundating much of the town. Insisting that dunes grow to 60 or 70 feet at Breakers Point will not keep the north side from being destroyed.
• THE DUNES PROTECT THE HABITAT. The argument that a human-induced dune covered by invasive beach grass, comparable to an old-growth forest or pristine wetland, is completely specious. It is an artificial construct, which can be managed responsibly for the benefit of all. The dune grading projects over the last 20 years have all grown back after replanting. Neither Dr. Allan nor Dr. Hacker wrote about “critical habitat” or the downside of dune grading on the environment. Dr. Allan specifically outlined how dune grading for views could be done responsibly in his report. Kerr, of course, insisted that he remove the recommendation from the report, but Dr. Allan refused.
I have worked on dune grading projects since 1999, and have spent many hours replanting beach grass on Ocean Avenue and Breakers Point. I challenge any objective observer to look at the dunes in their current condition and say that they are “like a clearcut” or “ugly.”
As a former mayor, I am saddened by the legal costs and acrimony brought by this dispute. The HOAs were willing partners throughout this process beginning in 2015, when the study was initiated, and many owners sat through the meetings hoping for a middle ground that all could agree to.
Bob Lundy, former chair of the planning commission, and Mayor Steidel have both argued for an approach that would allow for restoration of the dunes with strict design guidelines.
If the LUBA appeal provides for the city council to rethink the draconian ordinance they have adopted, perhaps a middle ground can be found.