Live fire photos courtesy Citizen Photographer Click on photos to enlarge
Report by Captain Jim Kusz
North Lincoln Fire Rescue
Observant Neighbors Trigger Rapid Response to Roads End Fire
Vicki Carter was speaking to her father, when she noticed what appeared to be a heavy fog coming from the house next to the dwelling they had rented for a beach getaway. Carter, 65 from Vancouver, Washington went outside and saw flames coming from the house located at NE 64th and Mast in Roads End.
Soon multiple callers reported the fire at approximately 6:00 PM on Friday evening, April 5th, dispatching North Lincoln Fire & Rescue, to 1828 NE 64th Street. First-in units noticed smoke coming from all sides of the building and flames coming out the east bedroom window. The modest beach home, which was vacant at the time, soon was surrounded by four engines; several rescue units, and over twenty North Lincoln Fire & Rescue volunteer firefighters. Engines also responded from Depoe Bay and Nestucca Fire, and stood by with additional North Lincoln Fire & Rescue’s ladder truck and an additional rescue unit.
Firefighters on scene quickly managed to extinguish the fire; however, flames had severely damaged two bedrooms and the ceiling; heavy smoke andheat damaged the majority of the 1100 square foot beach house owned by Brad and Nancy Conklin of Dundee, Oregon.
Saturday morning investigators from the recently formed Lincoln (County) Fire Investigation Team or LFIT, determined the cause to most likely be from an electrical outlet in the bedroom.
LFIT members are Firefighters and Police officers with fire and arson investigation backgrounds. The team is activated to investigate and determine the cause of fires throughout the County. Assistant Chief Rob Murphy from Newport Fire came up to assist Saturday’s morning’s investigation along with team members from North Lincoln Fire & Rescue.
You couldn’t quite set your watch to it, but you knew it was coming. And it has, finally. After the Lincoln City City Council formally decided to officially annex the Roads End area into the city December 10th, the Roads End Water District (which has no water or pipes to deliver it) filed an appeal to the state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) based in Salem. The water board’s complaint was that the annexation process was flawed. Full details of the complaint will come out during a LUBA hearing within a few weeks.
During the many months of the public portion of the back-and-forth between the water board and the city council, the water board contended that Roads End residents were being illegally forced to sign documents agreeing to be annexed under threat of having their water turned off. The city provides Roads End with water after their own water system failed many years ago. The board has also complained that many who signed the documents have since changed their minds and have filed affidavits saying so with the city, to no avail. The city doesn’t honor them.
From the city’s perspective a Circuit Court judge has ruled that the city is under no obligation to serve water or any other urban service to an unincorporated part of the county, and that the city can turn off their water anytime it deems right and proper since there exists no contract for water service to Roads End. City officials have said many times that past Roads End Water Board members have promised that once the city provided Roads End with water, annexation would be forthcoming. It never happened.
City officials also say that water is not the only service Roads End property owners enjoy at the expense of city residents; there is emergency police response, library, community center, advertising and promotion for many vacation rental dwellings, use of city streets, parks and recreation programs. They point to the Lincoln County Commission, in whose jurisdiction Roads End residents live, strongly urging Roads End residents to annex into the city so they can get the depth of law enforcement coverage they truly need. Commissioners have repeatedly said that the county cannot afford to provide such services and that too frequently an urgent 9-1-1 call from a Roads End resident involves a deputy sheriff who must call for reinforcements from Lincoln City Police. “Our Sheriff’s Department is stretched pretty thin,” is a common lament from county officials.
As for the water board’s claim that rescinded resident signatures on the annexation papers should be honored, city officials have said only that the city doesn’t accept them.
LUBA officials say that the next step in the appeal is for both sides to submit information related to the dispute to LUBA staff. Then there will be oral arguments presented during a hearing. After that a decision will be made by LUBA sometime in early April.
If either side doesn’t like the outcome of that decision, they’ll have 21 days to file an appeal with the State Court of Appeals. They have their own timeline. If neither side likes the Court of Appeals ruling, they can appeal to the State Supreme Court. Although this sounds like years of litigation, it’s not. The process is quite rapid as required by law with the average appeal being processed all the way to the top, and ruled on in a matter of weeks.
Should the annexation be upheld, the city council has made it part of the annexation documents that Roads End water bills would be cut in half to reflect water bills city-wide and that property tax increases would be phased in over time rather than on the day the annexation becomes official.
Despite another tongue lashing by another member of the Roads End Water District Board (REWD), the Lincoln City City Council, none the less, proceeded to vote unanimously Monday night to annex Roads End into the city of Lincoln City. The vote means Roads End will become the newest addition to Lincoln City effective July 1st. That’s when property taxes go up to reflect becoming a part of Lincoln City – that is – if no one goes to court to try to stop the marriage. A group of REWD Board members and angry Roads End homeowners are expected to take legal action to interrupt the process. The city has budgeted at least fifty thousand dollars for their legal fees to fight back.
The story started in the mid-1970s when the Roads End area ran out of water. The state stepped in and brokered a deal to have Lincoln City extend their municipal water lines outside their city limits north into Roads End. With that arrangement Roads End property owners made a commitment to annex into the city no later than 2003. But 2003 came and went and Roads End didn’t annex. What’s more there arose an anti-annexation chorus that also demanded that Lincoln City continue to serve them water.
At that point the 2004 city council asked a Circuit Court judge to rule on whether the city’s now-expired water contract with the Roads End Water District still meant the city had to provide water to Roads End. The judge ruled, “No contract, no water.”
More years came and went until recent pressure by the past two city councils initiated the annexation process themselves. They reasoned that Roads End property owners enjoy FREE backup emergency services from Lincoln City Police, SUBSIDIZED access to the Lincoln City Community Center, FREE benefits from tourism advertising throughout the state which benefits owners of vacation rentals, SUBSIDIZED water service and a number of other “urban level services” that Lincoln City taxpayers were shouldering on their own.
Many Roads End neighbors disagreed strongly saying that their higher water and sewer rates to the city substantially pays for their fair share of the cost of services.
However, Lincoln City appears to have state land use law on their side which notes that Roads End lies inside Lincoln City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). State land use law dictates that any community inside a UGB means that the area outside the city will eventually annex in. It’s literally not a question of “if” but when.
REWD Board members have fought the annexation vigorously for months, declaring that the REWD is a duly created and elected government entity and that they have a right to contract with the city for water. The city council has repeatedly told them no. An REWD Board member Monday night accused the city council of being unfair and biased in their assessment of Roads End’s requirement to annex. The member said consent-to-annex signatures gathered by the city council were a product of coercion, if not extortion, since to fail to sign meant the homeowners’ water would be turned off. The council has reminded others that the aforementioned judge’s ruling in 2004 gave the city the green light to do just that if the contract for water service expires.
Still the board member pushed on, claiming that over one hundred letters-of-consent revocations were now on file with the city, meaning the city no longer has enough “valid” signatures to force the annexation. The city contends the revocations have no bearing on the matter.
With the council’s decision to annex Roads End, the city is expected to notify the Lincoln County Assessor’s office of the change in the status of Roads End and to begin assessing all those in the designated Roads End area as city taxpayers. And taxes will go up depending on the value of the property involved.
Under the plan, city property taxes will be gradually phased in over the next three fiscal years: 70% of the full rate effective July 1, 2013, 85% of full rate effective July 1, 2014, and 100% of the full rate effective July 1, 2015, this in an effort to soften the financial hit property owners will experience. Roads End sewer and water rates will be cut in half effective July 1, 2013. Those owning vacation rentals must obtain a business license from the city by the end of 2013 and room taxes on them must be collected, at the city rate, starting January 1, 2014.
Those who continue to oppose the annexation can take their grievance to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in Salem and claim the process of annexation was not properly followed. But if they don’t get what they want, their next stop would be at the State Court of Appeals if that court would agree to review it. If the opponents get turned down there, they can petition the State Supreme Court to see if they will review it and make a ruling. Or they might just file a lawsuit in an attempt to get an injunction against the city thereby temporarily stopping the annexation process until it’s properly dissected by the courts as to whether those revoked signatures were legally revoked. However, state lawmakers created the LUBA – Court of Appeals – Supreme Court appeal process to keep land use challenges out of the mainstream courts in order to steamline the process.
Just before the vote, City Councilor Chester Noreikis and other city councilors said they regretted the hard feelings including down right anger expressed by Roads End residents but that the council has a duty to Lincoln City taxpayers. Noreikis said while many current Roads End property owners feel the annexation came out of the blue, it has, in fact, been developing for years in an effort to get Roads End property owners to pay their fair share of urban services. Noreikis said when the REWD allowed the water contract to expire in 2003, the district did not secure a water supply of their own. They simply let Lincoln City continue to serve them water. Even today, the REWD has no water supply nor a distribution system to deliver it. Noreikis continued, “On the other hand previous city councils did not property deal with the issue by not making the tough decision. So here we are today.” Councilman Roger Sprague said he remembers well the frightful situation Roads End was in when their water system was failing. Sprague said “I can tell you that in 1980 there was no question in anyone’s mind that annexation into Lincoln City would occur no later than 2003, when the water contract ended.” Mayor Dick Anderson lamented that while most Roads End residents have been cordial in their opposition some have been strident and angry, seemingly unwilling or unable to see the underlying issues. “A blind spot, if you will,” he added.
As Yogi Berra is so often quoted…”It’s not over ’til it’s over.” In this case, we’re probably not even close.
Photographer John Kerr was prowlin’ around Roads End this week and caught a near black and white moment at the beach. Just a little green from the brush and small patch of blue gave it away. Boy it sure is busy out there. Nothing surfable. Just close-outs and chaos. Pretty good rip tide right there in the middle too!
In what will likely trigger a lawsuit by a number of Roads End residents, the Lincoln City City Council Tuesday night voted to annex the Roads End community just outside the north city limits. The action came after two public hearings during which opponents and supporters of annexation made their case.
Those in support said that Roads End property owners have enjoyed urban services from next door Lincoln City for decades. Those services include sewer, water, back-up police, parks, recreation and tourism promotions, all without paying their fair share of the cost of those services. Opponents characterized the annexation attempt as an unabashed power and revenue grab to make up for poor governance. Roads Enders claimed that they already pay enough taxes and that the issue should be brought to a vote of the people, not just the city council. Still others said that those who signed their consent forms for annexation did so under duress in fear that the city would make good on its threat to shut off their water (since a judge ruled in 2005 that the city was no longer under contract to provide water to Roads End). A few other opponents said that the city claiming it has enough property owner signatures to initiate annexation is baseless, since so many of those who signed did so under “coercion” and that many have since revoked their consent and that their revocation statements are now on file with the city.
City Manager David Hawker said despite receiving those revocation letters, he and City Attorney Joan Kelsey believe the original letters of consent are still valid.
City Attorney Joan Kelsey said the annexation controversy goes back decades. She said it was in the mid 1970’s that the private water system in Roads End had failed and that many of their septic tanks were also in the process of failing. State and local health authorities stepped in and arranged to have Lincoln City extend sewer and water lines to the area, with a commitment from Roads End property owners that they would eventually annex into the city. Kelsey said that contracts to provide sewer and water services were signed – water service expiring in 2003. Soonafter the city tried to convince the area to annex. Residents turned the city down. The city went to court to get a ruling as to whether it could stop serving water to Roads End since there was no longer a contract in place. Kelsey said the judge ruled that without a service contract, cutting off the water would certainly be legal. Hence the city’s current requirement that residents consent to be annexed or have their water shut off and therewith the use of their property.
Kelsey has also stated in the past that state land use law clearly intends for “urban-like high density” areas be annexed into cities so that adequate urban services can be delivered. State law also shows Roads End inside Lincoln City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), the UGB meaning that all land within it will be annexed into the city eventually. Hawker said Lincoln City taxpayers have been promised for decades by Roads End residents that they would eventually join the city. But it never happened. Thus, Tuesday night’s decision by the city council to finally begin the annexation process.
Along with that decision to annex, the council made these provisions:
* The annexation would become official next July 1st.
* All sewer and water bills to Roads End property owners would be cut in half to reflect the same rate as paid by regular Lincoln City residents.
* All surcharges levied for Roads End users for city recreation facilities would be removed.
* Lincoln City Police would begin regular 24/7 patrols throughout Roads End.
* Logan Road and other streets would be maintained by the city.
* Current county zoning would remain in effect – no commercial development is contemplated within Roads End.
* Valid Vacation Rental Dwellings would remain so, but room taxes would rise from 9.0 to 9.5% to reflect the city rate.
* A slow ramp up to higher property taxes MAY be possible. City staff will evaluate its effects on city finances since it would be ramping up urban street and police services without matching revenues.
* Those having a very difficult time with higher property taxes may get some relief from a county run tax-deferral option.
Again, opponents to the annexation, spear-headed mainly by the recently resurrected Roads End Water District (which was disbanded in 1978 and which today owns no water nor pipes to deliver it) have made it clear they intend to seek a court injunction to stop the annexation. But city officials claim they are on firm legal ground in their pursuit of annexing Roads End.
A long line of Roads End residents told the Lincoln City City Council Monday night that they don’t want to be forced to annex into the city. They said they fear that their property taxes will rise substantially and that Lincoln City might allow new hotels and other commercial operations to change their tranquil, rural lifestyle, just beyond the city’s glare. However, a few Lincoln City residents testified that they are tired of subsidizing Roads End residents who get urban services without having to pay the full cost of them like city parks and recreation programs, sewer and water service, access to 24/7 police services among other things.
Lincoln City staff told the annexation hearing that although Roads End property owners pay lower property taxes, they still get full access to urban benefits, including sewer and water which costs more to provide than even the double-rate paid by Roads End customers. Staff also denied that if Roads End comes into the city, the city will change land use zoning or try to force hotels or commercial buildings to be built along Roads End’s beach front.
Many Roads End neighbors demanded a vote of the people to decide whether they should be annexed into the city. They called a recent campaign to get enough property owner signatures, to initiate annexation, a bullying tactic since the city threatened to cut off their water if they didn’t sign on the dotted line. A recent court decision ruled the city could, indeed, cut off their water because the contract to provide water to Roads End expired many years ago.
Another factor in all this are state land use laws that basically say, if you demand city services you will eventually live in a city. In this case Roads End’s urban area shares its southern boundary with north Lincoln City. They’re smack up against each other. That’s why Lincoln City Police respond on calls for service when its serious enough and no Sheriff’s deputies are available. At night, deputies respond from home, which could be located in any far-flung area of the county. Oregon State Police can also respond but there are even fewer of them.
City staff also reiterated that many of the homes in Roads End are vacation rentals. Their owners live out of the area and derive income from renting their houses to vacationers. City staff contends that the city spends well over a million dollars a year on out-of-region advertising to promote Lincoln County as a vacation spot. That, staff says, benefits vacation rental property owners and helps them keep their places rented.
A member of the Roads End Water District (which owns neither water nor a way to deliver it to anyone) plopped a thick stack of papers on the podium saying they were documents, signed by Roads End residents, who are withdrawing their permission to be annexed. Many charged that the city’s “greedy and bullying attitude” made them sign in the first place – not out of any honest desire to become part of Lincoln City.
City Councilors are holding another Roads End Annexation hearing Tuesday night, 6pm at City Hall. At the end of the next meeting, the council is expected to vote on whether to proceed with the annexation process. A number of Roads End residents have vowed to file suit against the city if the council decides to annex Roads End.