By Brad Mosher
The owner of a beachfront house in Rockaway Beach seeking the the reversal of a decision against the property had a request for a continuance approved Tuesday at the city’s Planning Commission meeting.
The commissioners agreed to a two week postponement on the issue of placing a protective revetment to halt erosion threatening a house owned by Tai Dang of Hillsboro.
The appeal will be revisited Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.
Attorney Michael Kittle of the Tillamook law firm, Albright and Kittell, only recently started representing Dang.
“We didn’t think this was going to be an issue until very recently,” Kittell said after the hearing adjourned. “I’ve met with Mr. Dang and we are working on how to get this resolved.”
The recent storms have threatened the house on South Sixth Street even more, Kittell said. “There is only a couple of feet now,” he added, noting the distance left between the beach and the structures on the property.
Earlier in the meeting, Rockaway Beach City Planner Ryan Crater told the Planning Commission that he concurred with the decision by his predecessor, Jay Sennewald.
The house Dang owns was not eligible for for the Goal 18 exception that allowed him to build, Crater said.
Sennewald determined almost a year ago that the building was not consistent with the local comprehensive plan or the zoning regulations. That was a reversal of an earlier position on the property where Dang had received approval of the project.
“That (previous) decision was reversed after a follow through and discussions with the (Oregon) State Parks,” Crater told the commissioners.
Two weeks after the reversal was announced in April 2015, Dang filed an appeal. Although it would later be described as incomplete, the appeal finally met the criteria so that it could be scheduled with the planning commission.
The start of the issues with the property began in 2003, according to Crater. The city planner at the time, Dick Pearson approved the partition of the property. “The partition created two tax lots. In this partition, one lot was created that was not in conformance with city regulations and one was,” the city planner said.
“The decision made in 2003 was leading us down a path where decisions were not done correctly,” the planner added. “It was not consistent with the locally adopted comprehensive plan.”
“Mr. Dang’s home construction in 2008 was approved by the city … but the question before you (the commissioners) is was this structure sited in accordance with the Ocean Shore setback limit. Based on a review by Sennewald, the then-city planner (in 2015) and my review, the structure was not located in accordance with the Goal 18 exception. In fact, it was located forward of the Ocean Shore Setback Line,” Crater said.
“Therefore, the determination was made that it was not consistent with the comprehensive plan and Goal 18 exception in place at the time of the determination,” he said.
“I personally could not approve this as being consistent,” the planner added.
The commission also allowed public comment, with the instructions that since there was a request for a continuance from Dang that any comments would be added to those made at the next meeting before making a decision about the appeal.
According to longtime resident Pat Crouse, riprap can have an effect on neighboring property. “In 1998 we had a horrendous storm. We ended up having to put riprap in. Three lots next to us, they felt they didn’t need to do it. Now, they no longer have buildable lots because the ocean came in and made it a half-moon,” she told the commissioners. “I just want people to know if they have an empty lot next to them… it is going to take away a lot of sand and create a lot of problems.”
Phillip Johnson, the executive director of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition based in Seal Rock, told the commission that they have a chance to protect the public beaches with the decision.
“It is a simple issue. The structure does not qualify for riprap and the city’s decision (to deny) was correct,” he said, adding that he would concur with the city’s staff report submitted to the commission Tuesday.
“The owner (Dang) did not build where he should have built on the lot. He did not exercise due diligence. By his own testimony given to the state parks, he said he knew the property was eroding at the rate of about three feet a year for decades.
“The owner knew this going in,” Johnson stressed.
“The simple facts is it does not qualify under your current comprehensive plan and ordinance, nor does it qualify under the intent of Goal 18.”
Johnson ended by urging the commissioners to “stick to your guns.”
Resident Howard Harmon lives on the other side of Saltair Creek which borders the Dang property. “It is enjoyable to watch the ocean. I like to watch the waves, but it does take its toll living on the beachfront. We were amazed when this house was built because it was so close to the ocean,” he said. “They didn’t stay in the footprint of the house. In my opinion, they took a great big chance.
“We were under the impression they could not put riprap around it,” he added. “If you put a big cement wall like he (Dang) suggested some time ago, the water would ricochet off that to the north, which it has to do. The property in front of us would naturally be wiped away,” the resident said.
Harmon added that he felt Dang knew about the problems going in. “It was a gamble. I feel sorry for him, but I think he’s lost his gamble.”
Carolyn Steele, a resident manager at a local condominium property, told the board. “I have concerns,” she told the commissioners.
“What happens if big rocks are brought in and it diverts the water, just like it did in Rockaway and just like it did by Barview Jetty. The water is being diverted and that could be why we are being eroded. Oh my gosh, eight or 10 feet are gone since I started managing that property. That is scary.”
She added the hope that the commission will take into account the neighboring property owners when they come to a decision.
Steele said that she also was concerned that it could force other property owners to use riprap. Are we going to have to have riprap. Then the next people going to have riprap. Is it just going to continue on until the entire beach is rapped or ripped or whatever? It is really scary.”