An eleventh-hour submission from property owners Dan and Susan Calef wasn’t enough to turn the tide as the Seaside City Council rejected an appeal of a Planning Commission decision granting a height variance to the proposed Pearl Oceanfront Resort.
The hearing came following a year-and-a-half process in which the proposal won two variances from the Planning Commission. One of those, a setback variance, was rejected by the City Council.
Pearl owner Antoine Simmons and architect David Vonada returned to the Planning Commission with a new plan dropping the request for a setback variance, but continuing to seek a height variance to compensate for an 8-foot grade difference from the front to the back of the property.
The height of the western portion of the building from the adjacent grade would be 52 feet due to a below-grade story, City Planner Kevin Cupples wrote in a summary. The resort residential zone limits building height to 45 feet, necessitating the variance.
“A number of pre-existing buildings in the surrounding area are close to or exceed the requested building height,” Cupples wrote.
‘Dwarf our house’
The Planning Commission granted the height variance in January, a decision appealed to the City Council by the Calefs, owners of a duplex at 25 Avenue A.
The proposed resort at 341 South Prom, the Calefs wrote in their appeal, “will dwarf our house, invade our privacy by placing hotel balconies feet from our upstairs bedroom and generally diminish the value of our property.”
Neighbor Avrel Nudelman, one of those to appeal the setback variance, withdrew his formal challenge but added a letter of support for the Calefs in their bid to challenge the building height.
Late Friday, Planner Cupples received a memorandum on behalf of the Calefs’ appeal from Sean Malone, a Eugene-based land use attorney.
The document was not provided to city councilors, city staff and Simmons until Monday.
“There is no evidence in the record that a hotel that can satisfy the height standards would not fit within the context of the location,” Malone wrote. “Exceptional and extraordinary circumstances do not exist.”
According to Malone, the city’s findings do not demonstrate the variance is consistent with the ordinance or comprehensive plan and “do not demonstrate that (the) variance will not be injurious to the neighborhood.”
The applicant’s proposed hotel is “really what creates the necessity for the variance,” Dan Calef added in testimony before councilors.
The late submission failed to sway the council.
‘Need to resolve it’
“I haven’t read any of it,” City Attorney Dan Van Thiel said. “One thing is clear is that this matter has been before this city for a year and a half. … But I can tell you the city has spent a lot of time looking at the very issues that are the subject of the whole controversy.”
Van Thiel said he believed in “finality” and letting “people get on with their own lives.”
“I think we need to resolve it, at least at this stage,” Van Thiel said.
No matter the outcome, the question can be appealed to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Councilors unanimously rejected the Calefs’ request, showing support for the Planning Commission’s recommendation and citing the option of a state appeal.
“I agree with the (city) attorney,” Councilor Dana Phillips said. “If they want to appeal the decision, they can go to LUBA.”
“I’ve been torn about this the whole time, but if we deny the appeal, they still have some place to go,” Councilor Tita Montero said.
“I see it as part of living in a beach town,” Mayor Jay Barber said. “This is an old residence that has been there from way back and it is in a resort zone. Eventually the time is going to come when it is going to be impacted in a negative way for the people who have lived there and owned it for years. I do feel badly about that.”
Councilors Seth Morrisey and Randy Frank joined Barber, Montero and Phillips in voting to deny the appeal.
“We’re excited to hit the ground running and know we can move forward with the project,” Simmons said after the meeting. “We’ve got a lot of work in front of us still.”
Work is not expected to start until fall and could be delayed by legal appeals, Simmons added.
“We will be exploring the LUBA option,” Dan Calef said after the meeting. “That will probably be our next step.”