Newport City Councilors took over a year to get through all the debate and community tension but they finally got the job done. They adopted a set of rules on how and where homes can be built, or rebuilt on ocean bluffs and dune-back areas. In short, if there’s enough room to build up to a one thousand square foot building footprint on a lot, outside of a certified active or high hazard area, and a geologic engineering study says it’s safe, the owner can build their dream home. Those areas determined to be in moderate or low threat erosion areas do not require a geologic engineering study before proceeding to construction.
For months, those who own homes they’d like to expand, or who own lots they’d like to build on, or who own bluff property as investments, pounded away on the council for abridging their property rights while title companies, banks and real estate agents accused them of unfairly singling out land owners whose property was wrongly declared “at risk” for falling down into the ocean.
After months of hearings, reviews and wrangling with state planners and state coastal survey maps, it was determined that homes or lots within low to moderate risk areas should not be required to have expensive geologic engineering studies done first, before a building permit it issued. Even those lots that lie within state-designated “high risk” or even “active” areas can be built on if the lots are big enough and have a large enough area that is stable; again, certified by a geologic engineering examination.
Other points of contention were state maps that showed broad areas of coastal bluff properties as lying within a red colored “danger zone.” Residents and real estate, banks and title companies were livid. They wanted no part of the color red. So the city accommodated them on that as well.
Newport was seen as a “test case” for prospective state rules governing coastal bluff development. Suggested state restrictions were far tougher than what Newport adopted Monday night. Other coastal cities are exploring their own adaptations of recommended state standards. So this story may be far from over. In the meantime, the state has not given any sign that Newport’s new standards aren’t “good enough.”Share on Facebook