The storm brewing in Newport Oregon is as frothy and filled with flavor as a Rogue ale, but the beer isn’t the point of contention between two groups as they face off over what the best choices are for the city council to make.
The city is proposing updating hazardous zoning maps, making homeowners within these zones liable for their own property, limiting future residences, and property owners are fighting back at the prospect of monetary loss.
In 2004 city officials working in conjunction with the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) requisitioned a field map of the eroding Newport coastline. At that time, no further action was taken and the updated map was shelved, even though it showed greater amounts of erosion from the last state mapping done in 1970. After the maps were brought to the city council’s attention in November of 2009 the city began pursuing a proposal to update the zoning and building codes based on the most current map available (from 2004). Concerned citizens decided to fight back and formed the Central Coast Home & Business Owners Association (CCHBOA) to fight the city.
The main concern that all parties involved can agree on is the economic factor and how it will affect the city, and property owners who would now be deemed “Red Zone” (because it is estimated that within 100-years the land will have eroded to unsafe building conditions). Once labeled with as a “hazardous zone” the property owner will no longer be able to obtain a normal mortgage and non-conforming mortgage rates start at over 12% if a lender can be found willing to loan to a property owner in a non-conforming zone. The land is immediately devalued and becomes a massive liability rather than the asset it currently is.
Real estate agents are extremely concerned about laws governing them to disclose the current “hazardous zoning” proposal to potential buyers of properties, and many feel that they have already lost sales because of the status of the proposal.
The city has just as much to lose. Without an influx of new residents and businesses it could easily suffer huge population losses and in this downturned economy that is not an acceptable option to anyone. The city is trying to balance the needs of its residents with the needs it has as a branch of government designed to protect and ensure the safety of the residents of the city. Without putting new zoning in place and limiting future structures the city could face future lawsuits due to negligence. The city has proposed that residents will have to file a liability waiver with the city, thus protecting it from any future lawsuit liability that may arise. The city council is taking great care to listen to both sides and fairly put into place an agreement that all parties can find mutually acceptable. Residents, in an effort to protect their rights, have asked the city to have the DOGAMI do a LIDAR (most current form of laser mapping) mapping of the area before making any final decisions. The city is considering it, but does not have the budget in place to proceed.
The CCHBOA has currently raised over $25,000 to begin a legal battle with the city if the proposal is passed. The city council is holding meetings every month as it further explores the options while trying to finalize an acceptable plan and trying to avoid litigation. The CCHBOA has posted flyers, put up a website, and is recruiting property owners support. The people are uniting for a cause they believe in. They have asked for grandfather clauses, no mandatory “red zoning”, or to have independent studies done before the council makes a final decision.
DOGAMI stands behind its maps and feels that they need to be put into use immediately to protect people and the environment. If the maps are not utilized to protect the environment massive amounts of damage are expected with further expedited erosion patterns coming to previously unseen levels. DOGAMI is open to using the new LIDAR mapping technique and has said the program is more accurate than the previous field method used in 2004.