WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Newport City Council meets with Planning Commission for another review of the proposed “coastal bluff geologic hazard” rules.

Apparently not much has changed on how the Newport Planning Commission feels about proposed changes on who gets to build a house on a coastal bluff and what regulatory hoops they have to jump through to do it. The commission, meeting with the City Council said again Monday night, that anyone selling a house or a vacant lot on a bluff top should be made to conduct a thorough geologic investigation to determine if the land, especially in an active or high hazard zone, is safe to live on or build on. However, a majority of the commission drew the line on requiring that the seller must file the results of that geologic investigation, along with the fact that the land is in an active or high risk zone with the deed to the property at the county recorder’s office. The commission majority maintained such a requirement is not needed and only raises fear and complications for any buyer or seller. They say there already exists state law that requires full disclosure during any real estate sales transaction.

Staff’s version of the ordinance (not adopted)

One commissioner said the city staff’s version of the ordinance is flawed in that the original owner of a home, that was built in a geologically active or high hazard zone, would have to sign a waiver and indemnify the city if the ground under his or her home moved or it slid down the cliff or into another home. But, they say, it’s far from clear that, under the staff’s version of the ordinance, that the buyer would have to do the same. He also said under the staff’s version of the ordinance, adjoining properties, in some cases, could be treated differently. One might be sold having to comply with city-mandated disclosures while the other would not.

The city council listened attentively, asked a few questions, and then thanked the commissioners for working hard on a very difficult planning issue. City Community Development Director Derrick Tokos again emphasized that staff, including City Attorney Penelope McCarthy, believes that the tougher city-mandated disclosure rules are in the best interest of the city and its taxpayers. He said similar rules have been adopted in a number of communities around Oregon for a good reason. Liability. Anytime somebody loses something of great value, like a home, the liability laser-light moves about the room and usually falls on the entity that has the deepest pockets. Invariably, it’s the city or county in which the incident occurs. And for that, three of the seven planning commissioners voted (in the minority) to adopt staff recommendations. The chairman said, “I have mixed feelings but I think we need to error on the side of caution.” Again, the majority said state rules on the matter are already strong enough without the city getting involved.

So, now the issue is squarely in the laps of the Newport City Council. The council will schedule another meeting on it in the near future.

Editor’s note: See “Comments” on this story.

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