OCEANSIDE INCORPORATION: What The Petitioners Don’t Want You to Know About Land-Use Decisions

By Oceanside True Friends PAC*

The discussion of whether Oceanside should incorporate has primarily focused on finances, and that will probably continue until Election Day. But there are other things to talk about as well, although you are probably not going to hear anything from the petitioners on those subjects.

Land-use is front and center for the petitioners, but you only see one side of the coin. For example, the pre-proposal for a “3-story hotel” by Fusion Lodging on the site currently zoned “commercial” and occupied by the Oceanside Cabins (hotels are a “conditional use” in the commercial zone) remains a favorite target of the petitioners: “[t]he fact of the matter is that with Oceanside incorporated, we will have direct control over whether such a project proceeds…”

The petitioners imply that the new city could deny permission for a hotel to be built simply because the new government doesn’t want hotels in Oceanside. But land-use decisions are not governed by whim; they are governed by regulations that reflect reasonable uses along with community values. Property owners will hold communities accountable if the community goes off the rails.

Before you vote “yes” for incorporation because the new city will stop projects faster than a speeding tourist, let’s take look to see how neighboring small cities are doing with their “direct control”.

I don’t mean to demean the citizens and governments of our neighbors. In every coastal community you will find citizens that work hard work for its future, but that in itself is no guarantee of a smooth ride.

I discovered the following from a few minutes of web searching and a twenty-minute conversation with a management government official in one city.

  • Wheeler has been and remains embroiled in legal cases over land-use decisions regarding a single proposed development. The line item for “legal fees” in Wheeler’s budgets went from $8,000 in 2021-2022 to $85,000 in 2022-2023. No insurance policy that can be purchased by a small city will cover costs for litigation before the state’s Land Use Appeals Board (LUBA). The developer has also filed suit in Federal court for a “takings” claim for $6 million.
  • Rockaway Beach was ordered by a state court to pay a homeowner more than $200,000 over a permit denial to armor the beach to protect the home that the city permitted. A judge found the city did not act in good faith in its denial. The homeowner also filed a Federal lawsuit claiming a “takings”.
  • Cannon Beach denied a permit for a home, and the lot’s owners appealed to LUBA and then the state Supreme Court. When the owners applied for a permit for a scaled-back structure, a neighbor sued the city and the lot’s owners over a possible easement.

The Oceanside petitioners have also said the new city would “directly control” short-term rentals, another issue that has generated ballot measures in Lincoln County (recently overturned before LUBA) and a “pause” in short-term rental permits in Tillamook County. That area of the law might be even more risky than permit decisions. But you hear nothing from the petitioners about the recent court decisions, or their plans if they get control.

Last year, the ONA task force did not identify land-use litigation as a risk of incorporation, instead just trumpeted the virtues (like every other topic). The petitioners are silent on the limits of “direct control” and the experiences of nearby cities.

Maybe they’ve not thought about it, or think it is unimportant, or maybe they just don’t want to talk about it before the election—or ever.

Either way, it’s reckless that the neither the petitioners nor the Oceanside Neighborhood Association care to discuss *all* the aspects of incorporation.

A small city with “direct control” where the new city council made big promises?

Vote “no.” Big promises can lead to big legal fees.

*For more information, www.noincorp.com