The marathon series of hearings and appeals over riprap erosion protection is over – until March 1 – when the City of Rockaway Beach holds a planning commission meeting in the city council chambers.
After the last hearing, people were given seven days to submit any written comments concerning the appeal by Tai Dang of Hillsboro. Then Dang was given seven days to respond or add any additional comments or information, according to commission president Rae Owens.
Now, the planning commission will decide the fate of the appeal regarding a proposed riprap revetment to protect Dang’s beachfront house from the erosion that has come within a few feet of the buildings.
Last year, the city reversed its approval of the plan, prompting the owner to file an appeal.
The appeal started being heard in January, then was continued to Jan. 26.
When the commission has its next meeting March 1, the decision regarding the appeal for a riprap revetment will be made, Owen added.
During the last hearing, Dang’s attorney, Michael Kittell, said that the state did not issue a permit because of the position the city had taken almost a year ago.
“Now the city takes the position that it doesn’t qualify, therefore Mr. Dang can not get his permit and therefore his house is going to fall into the ocean,” the attorney told the planning commission.
Kittell cited an email that the reason that OPRD (Oregon Parks and Recreation Department) did not issue the permit was because the city said it (the property) did not comply with local law.
According to Kittell, no other objection was made about the proposed protective structure regarding the design or anything else.
“The OPRD application found that it complied with all other aspects,” the attorney said. “Mr. (Jay) Sennewald’s reasoning and the reasoning in the staff report is the same – the only reason this does not qualify or satisfy local laws is because of the OSL Ocean Setback Line Goal 18 issue.”
The applicable rules and ordinances substantiate the owner’s claim that the project qualifies, Kittell said. He told the commission that the property falls in the Residential Resort Zone.
“Structural shoreline stabilization is a use permitted outright in that property,” the attorney said. “There is not a single case – and I have searched high and low. There is not a single case that requires a Goal 18 exception to install beachfront protective structures.”
The attorney also claimed that retaining walls and other structures designed to the protect the property were evident from aerial photos of the city dating back to 1940s. A geological study showed that a retaining wall was visible “armoring the west , northwest and north sides,” Kittell said. “We can confirm this with aerial photos that it was developed back in 1977 and for decades before that.”
The decision to deny the appeal could lead to legal action by the owner, the attorney told the commission. “Ultimately, …. it threatens the city with significant liability. Mr. Dang’s house is worth a lot and if it falls into the ocean, there is going to be some liability that will be asserted,” Kittell said.
According to the city attorney, John Putman, the reversal of an initial approval was because a former city planner found there was an error in the way the property had been evaluated. “The law is not static. Interpretations can change. The ultimate interpreter of the city’s ordinance is the city, unless the matter was interpreted first by a court,” he said.
Dang, the owner of the property, said he fulfilled the city requirements the city asked of him in 2008 when he bought the property. “I hired geologists – experts. They have expertise. They know stuff so we hire them,” he said. “That is required by the state.”
He added that he relied on the experts to built his house and on the city and state to tell him what was needed.
He also said he felt the city was taking away his property rights with the change made a year ago. “How many of you here have your house, after you built it, have the city recorder, the city manager, the planner come over with a tape measure to measure the setback.
“In 2008, I bought that land and built that house for my family. My family don’t use it. So do I just let it sit there? No. I let people have the experience and use it.
“You know what that means, the city gets $10,000 tax revenue from it. I generate four jobs. I am not greedy. I am not selfish.”
Coalition supports appeal denial
The coalition, according to its website, said the city planner properly determined the building was not eligible for shorefront protection.
In addition, the coalition that if the planning commission denies Dang’s appeal, there would likely be further appeals to the city council and possibly the courts. “If he prevails on the question of whether the property is eligible for riprap under the city’s plan, then he could appeal to OPRD for a reversal of their decision,” the website said.