Lincoln City city councilors took their first look at what may prove to be a controversial land use tool that seeks to lower the risk for home construction along highly erosion-prone coastal bluffs. The state has provided cities and counties up and down the Oregon Coast with highly accurate aerial maps that show where active bluff erosion is going on right now, where it’s likely to occur next over the next few decades and where it might take a little longer.
Unlike Newport’s rather wide swaths of risky coastal bluffs and active foredunes, Lincoln City’s hazard zones are very narrow – so narrow that most unbuilt lots have all three risk zones across them; high, moderate and low, from Cutler City clear up to the north end of town. For that reason planning staff told the council that just about every buildable lot will require a geologic engineering survey to determine whether it’s safe to build and how a home might be configured. The proposed rules will also address issues like whether a home, or hotel/motel for that matter, can be rebuilt after wind, storm or fire damage. Usually, if the damage is less than 50%, rebuilding is allowed. But if the damage is over 50% it could be another story. But staff doesn’t have that particular criteria worked out just yet.
Geologic surveys usually run about five thousand dollars. Only state licensed geologic engineers can do them. Survey results guide the city on whether to issue a building permit or how a home should be built on any particular bluff. Minimum set-backs from the edge of any bluff is currently proposed to be twenty feet, but it could be more if the specific building lot erosion rate is higher than three to four inches a year. The bottom two pictures show construction very close to a retaining wall. In this case the owner fortified the toe of the bluff which should buy him more time. So under current codes, the city required only an 11-foot setback.
Some among the council had a few issues with the new regulations but they’ll have more time to learn about it during an upcoming public hearing at their September 12th city council meeting. Planning staff says the state is closely monitoring progress among cities and counties as they grapple with geologic hazards. The Newport City Council endured many months of contentious haggling between property owners, real estate industry professionals and land use planners and just recently finished updating their geologic hazard component to their master plan. Lincoln City planning staff said they learned a lot by watching Newport’s wrestling with the issue and that, they say, should shorten Lincoln City’s adoption process of an equally suitable new set of coastal bluff development rules that will win state Land Development and Conservation approval.