Mar 092010

A packed house filled with Newport residents made it clear to city planning commissioners Monday night that they oppose proposed changes to the town’s coast bluff zoning that would severely restrict new home construction on coastal view lots. Many said designating wide swaths of coastal and bayfront properties as “high hazard” erosion sites is not only inaccurate, it would cause property values to plummet along with tax revenues for vital city services.

Others complained that the city, under guidance from state LCD is creating a solution that is worse than the problem of keeping homes from being built too close to the edges of fast eroding bluff cliffs. Many residents testified that it’s hard enough getting a home loan these days without waving the city’s proposed new rules in their face and making bankers nervous. Residents told staff that while there are hazardous building areas along the city shoreline, many areas are still safe to build on. They urged planning commissioners to slow down the process so that the city’s proposed coastal bluff ordinance doesn’t harm an already weak housing market and further damage city tax revenues.

Staff told the gathering that state law makes coastal cities and counties better protect ocean bluffs and steep slopes including those lining inland lakes and river canyons near the sea.

City Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said after the hearing that there may well be a less restrictive approach that would work, including a less intrusive “trigger” for a full geological report on a suspected problem lot without stigmatizing neighboring properties . Residents also decried the suggestion that future marginal or high hazard lots be approved for new housing but only if that housing was restricted to single-wide modula or fast “knock-down” stick-built homes that could be removed if earth movement under the house was detected. Others continued to be worried about their legal right to rebuild their home in a designated “high hazard area if it burned or was damaged in a wind storm.

Planning commissioners agreed to meet again in a workshop setting to further explore options. City staff will meet with State LCD staff to explore further options as well.

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