Officials said a clearer explanation is needed on housing densityGEARHART - Hopes remain aloft for Gearhart Golf Links owners despite a state order for Clatsop County to reconsider its approval of a zone change.

The state Land Use Board of Appeals, LUBA, issued an opinion and order last week remanding the previous zone change approval to the county's board of commissioners.

The state officials said a clearer explanation is needed about how plans to develop 24 condominiums along the first fairway would conform with the overall intensity of housing in the neighborhood. The requirement to have an acceptable intensity of development, or housing density, is part of Gearhart's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

In response to last week's ruling, proponents of the condominium development said they still hope to proceed with the project.

"It appears that LUBA needs some degree of clarification, so we will go back to the county and see what we can do," said Marty Kehoe, managing partner of the golf course owners. He had attended the LUBA hearings, with his attorney defending the county's approval against a group of residents who had petitioned for the appeal.

The state land-use officials returned the matter to the county on only one point out of six "assignments of error" or allegations by opponents that the approval was unfounded.

"LUBA rejected five out of six arguments by the opposition, and only partially sustained one of the objections," Kehoe said.

He and others seeking the zone change disagree with LUBA that the county did not accurately indicate how the housing density limits were satisfied, but nevertheless will go back to the county to seek clarification, he said. The extent of agreement by the state reflects that overall, "the city, the county and staff were all very thorough and professional in processing the application" for the zone change, he said.

The remand order "is not a permanent setback," Kehoe added. "In fact, I don't know that this will delay us much."

When the county officials might reconsider the matter is not yet known.

Opponents have rebuffed attempts to try to work out mutually acceptable solutions, Kehoe said. He characterized opponents as a small group of people who disagree with the majority of city councilors and county officials who had recommended approval, adding that they "seem to have a bottomless pit of money to spend on lawyers."

Petitioners have said over time they have pooled donations from more than 100 people to bring the matter to the state land use board, as well as to bring the matter to civil court to challenge the validity of one of the former city councilors to hear the matter.

Kehoe filed the proposal last year to re-zone 1.89 acres of park property on the west side of the golf course from parks use to high-density residential. The owners of the property seek to develop the condominiums in six buildings along Marion Avenue.

The owners also proposed to change a .98-acre site east of the golf clubhouse from commercial to parks use, and a deed restricting further development on the course property.

The condominium development is sought as a means to reduce the debt load on the historic, roughly 100-acre golf course site. As the legal battle has raged since the county approval last summer, owners have needed to curtail donations to community organizations to Kehoe added.

"The difference here is that without this development you'll have a place that will tread water and limp along, but with the development, Gearhart Golf Links will be a thriving, active part of the community."

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