More discussion on a proposal to grade the sand dunes at Breakers Point is planned during the Cannon Beach Planning Commission meeting Jan. 22.
The Breakers Point Homeowners Association is applying for a conditional use permit that would allow foredune grading west and south of its condominium development. The dunes are 46 feet high in some areas, blocking the homeowners’ oceanfront views and spreading sand onto their properties, said Bruce Francis, the property manager. “You have to physically shovel it away,” he said.
But opponents, including north end resident Lisa Fraser, are asking, “Is it worth the views of a few to reshape the entire north end of Cannon Beach?”
After roughly two and a half hours of public testimony in December, when the City Council chambers overflowed with those wishing to speak on the issue, the planning commission voted to continue the public hearing to its next meeting.
Breakers Point homeowners discussed their reasons for wanting the dunes graded.
“When I first moved here, I could see Haystack Rock from my window. Over the years, my view has dwindled to seeing some sky,” said Fran Carey, who has lived at Breakers Point for more than 20 years. “The sand is so high, I am unable to have access to the beach, and (during) any storm I have blowing sand on my windows and my patio.”
The dune grading project entails removing up to 73,400 cubic yards of windblown sand trapped by European beachgrass and depositing the majority of it in the intertidal zone; the rest would go into the Ecola Creek Estuary. Both methods carry the sand out to sea. In some places, at least 25 feet of sand needs to be excavated, said Tom Horning, a geologist working with the homeowners association.
Without permitting delays, the project would happen in two phases, the first this March and April, the second in February and March 2016.
“This is a continuing job that’s been done before. We’ve done this in cooperation with the city of Cannon Beach,” Francis said.
Breakers Point has done seven dune grading projects, removing 4,000 to 10,000 cubic yards per project, since 2000. This latest request calls for “a substantial increase over what you’ve approved in the past,” City Planner Mark Barnes told the planning commission.
But “if you keep making a bigger pile, you are subjecting it to more wind movement,” Francis said. “You’re going to shift more sand onto adjacent properties and onto the Breakers Point complex.”
“We love Cannon Beach,” said Ed Stone, a Breakers Point homeowner since the early 1980s. “We don’t want anything more than just to have our view back as best we can have (it).”
Most opponents did not dispute the main facts of the request, agreeing that the dunes had grown to a level that may inconvenience homeowners.
Instead, they pointed out that, while Breakers Point is required to submit semiannual reports regarding the three-year effects of each dune grading project, only two such reports exist in the public record.
“We’ve been told in years past, when dune grading projects were allowed, that there would be monitoring done thereafter on a regular basis and reports submitted to the city of Cannon Beach ... in order to ascertain the effects of the dune grading,” said Jan Siebert-Wahrmund, a Cannon Beach resident. “Where are these (by now numerous) monitoring reports?”
She also asked why the planning commission was even considering the Breakers Point request “before these many promised and required reports were turned in.”
Fraser said the city, by not demanding these monitoring reports, “did not hold up on their end of the bargain.”
Until the city conducts a comprehensive study of the effects of dune grading on the beach’s ecosystem, there should be a moratorium on any dune grading projects, said resident Susan Glarum. “That should be the minimum response by the city to this proposal, she said.
Mike Manzulli, chairman of the Ecola Creek Watershed Council, argued that the city’s comprehensive plan does not permit the dumping of sand into the Ecola Creek Estuary solely to enhance property owners’ views.
Furthermore, many communities that have recently experienced natural disasters — including the Indonesian tsunami of 2004, the Japanese tsunami of 2011, hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), etc. — are “rebuilding dunes right now ... to protect the community” when they can afford to do so, he said. “I think we really need to think about this.”
Some opponents said that nature ought to be allowed to take its course.
“I have no doubt that some of your views are gone. I think that’s probably very true,” resident Carol Bennett said. “I also think they built some condos in the ’70s on an active sand dune — what were they thinking? (Breakers Point homeowners) bought condos on an active sand dune — what were they thinking might happen? Were they thinking the view was going to stay just the same? It’s not possible.”
“Those dunes are there for a reason. We may not understand it, even if we’re — no offense — even if we’re geologists,” resident Tommy Huntington said. “Nature does this stuff for a reason, and to just destroy it for our view or something like that is irresponsible.”