CANNON BEACH — The state rejected an appeal from two homeowners associations and will uphold the city’s new, more restrictive dune management plan that eliminates the ability to grade to preserve views.
The Breakers Point and Chapman Point communities, located at the north end of the city, filed an appeal with the Land Use Board of Appeals last April after city leaders approved a new dune management plan. They hoped to roll back policies that will restrict certain types of dune grading and dune maintenance measures.
In its decision, the appeals board rejected a number of arguments from the homeowners associations, including claims that the inability to grade dunes for views and limits on how much sand can be removed through permitted grading activities will make it impossible to maintain certain public beach accesses or preserve designated residential areas.
The homeowners had also asserted the city’s updated policies will lead to unnatural dune growth, while the continued planting of nonnative European dune grass will help form steep dunes and could contribute to unsafe conditions on the beaches.
Tim Ramey, of the Chapman Point Homeowners Association, said he could not provide a comment. The board had not yet had time to discuss the state’s decision, he said. Board members for the Breakers Point association could not be reached for comment.
Friends of the Dunes at Cannon Beach applauded the state’s decision, calling it a victory for the coastal environment.
In a statement, Dianna Turner, the group’s co-chair, said the decision will “reverberate up and down the coast giving strength to other communities who want to protect their dunes and beaches.”
With the shifting ocean and storm conditions predicted to intensify with climate change, she said, “We must continue to push for policies to maintain coastal dunes both for their natural beauty and as a front line of defense from environmental threats.”
Cannon Beach began the process of updating its dune management plan in 2016, prompted by requests from residents to remove large amounts of sand and concerns from others about the ecological and visual impacts of these operations. The policies outlined in the new plan were to reflect updated scientific information.
Numerous public meetings and hearings followed. The Planning Commission sent recommendations to the City Council in 2018, which approved a final plan in 2020.
While state guidance allows cities to adopt foredune grading management plans and to grade dunes or move sand to maintain views or protect structures, cities are not required to allow these types of actions.
Cannon Beach had previously allowed dune grading for several reasons: to protect building and structures from sand inundation, to maintain beach access and to preserve residential ocean views.
This time, however, city leaders opted to limit dune grading overall and eliminate any grading for views. Those who previously had been allowed to grade dunes were not grandfathered in.
Now, grading is allowed to clear sand away if the sand is affecting the function of structures, public facilities, utilities or other infrastructure. This type of grading requires a development permit from the city.
The new plan also allows for preservation grading, which requires a conditional use permit, and grading for emergency access issues.