The Falcon Cove Beach Water District on Saturday dismissed ongoing concerns property owners have raised about a lack of transparency.
The water district’s operator, Charles Dice, referred to those raising the concerns as a “very small group of what I call, ‘disgruntled property owners.’” He said the group has been propagating misinformation and false narratives about the water district.
About 15 people attended the board meeting, which was hosted at Dice’s residence in Cove Beach. The board sat around the kitchen table with Dice at the head of the table. Home and property owners sat in chairs circled around the kitchen table.
The board discussed the immediate plan for a moratorium as well as their progress on a long-range plan to determine how many homes the water district can support.
Last December, the board voted for a six-month moratorium after reporting water production had been at record low levels for the past several years during the late summer months.
They extended the moratorium for another six months in June so the board could continue to look at long-term options to protect the water supply. The water district plans to vote to extend the moratorium again in December.
However, some residents and property owners believe the moratorium is being used to limit development. While the moratorium is in effect property owners have to come up with another water source to obtain a development permit from Clatsop County.
Each home is required to document a water source that will provide 250 gallons a day.
The county accepts several types of alternate water supply systems, including rain catchment. But the alternatives can increase building costs, leaving some property owners in limbo as they are unclear how long the moratorium will be in place.
“The water moratorium is absolutely to stop the progress of development,” said Sharyl Magnuson, a property owner and local physician.
Magnuson grew up in North Tillamook County, but upon returning to the coast she said she has felt unwelcomed in the neighborhood. She said there has been a lot of rancor between the board, some long-time homeowners and lot owners seeking to build homes.
Magnuson said she tried to obtain a building permit several months before the moratorium went into effect, but said she was told by the water district they were about to declare a moratorium so they would not give her access to water.
She and her husband decided to pay an additional $50,000 for a rain catchment system so they could obtain a building permit and build their home.
“What he was saying was a lot of misdirection and subtle falsehoods,” Magnuson said about Dice after the meeting. “They tapped into a major aquifer with that first well, it should take care of a community 10 times this size. There’s no need to keep the water moratorium going.”
Guido Paparoni, a lot owner with a Ph.D. in economic geology, filed a public records request to access the data the water district used to come to their conclusion.
He and his wife, Margaret Rozendaal, who has a Ph.D. in climate science, decided to use their expertise to examine the data themselves.
They concluded there is no water shortage.
David Livermore, a hydrogeologist and longtime homeowner came to the same conclusion as Paparoni.
The report was discussed at the October meeting. Dice said Paparoni’s report was not accurate, valid or pertinent.
Dice said the board’s decisions are data-driven and transparent.
Some people suggested creating a website or another digital document storage tool so people can have access to data, minutes and meeting notices.
“The board isn’t interested in doing that,” Dice said about a website. “We don’t have the skills, we don’t have the expertise.”
He said if people want to see their data, reports or other information they need to file a formal public records request.
In response to requests for teleconferencing, Dice said teleconferencing is against their board’s policy.
During public comment, several homeowners expressed their concerns about new development and especially short term rentals. Many thanked the water district for their work.
“The objective and primary concern of our water board is for the supply of safe, clean, drinking water to our entire community and that means to the residents of our community. The people who actually live here day in, day out,” Dice said.
“They don’t have second, or third, or fourth homes in Portland or Lake Oswego or West Linn or other places. They live here full time and they expect to get water when they turn on the tap 24/7 just like everybody else expects. So, while we’re empathetic with the property owners who have had a climp in their personal plans, or their financial plans, it is unfortunately what it is.”