The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, January 06, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Image 1

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144TH YEAR, NO. 136
Invasive plants taking
over Gearhart dunes
Safety, fi re and
invasive species
among panelists’
main concerns
Pets are taxed, but
minibars are not
The Daily Astorian
The Daily Astorian
GEARHART — Residents have seen veg-
etation on Gearhart dunes west of Ocean Ave-
nue and south of E Street multiply over the
last two decades. The city now grapples with
whether to address the noxious weeds, shore
pine trees and other species covering the
dunes with a management plan or continue to
let the vegetation grow in the city park area.
“We have the ‘no plan’ plan, and I think
that’s one of the reasons why we ended up
where we are today,” City Administrator
Chad Sweet said. The noxious weed Scotch
broom covers the dunes, some up to 10 feet
tall or higher.
Residents fi lled the Gearhart Fire Station
on Thursday night for an education forum and
town hall meeting on dune vegetation, where
they listened to city offi cials, state parks rep-
resentatives and other experts. The panel was
organized by Margaret Marino, a resident
who has expressed concerns about the vege-
tation at city meetings and reached out to state
departments and ecologists for assistance.
While some residents enjoy the vegetation
and worry that management practices could
impact wildlife, others are concerned about
public safety, fi re hazards, invasive species
and more.
“We’ve got many non-native species in
there and we’ve got very invasive species, not
Room tax
may include
fees in CB
Photos by Danny Miller/The Daily Astorian
ABOVE: Gearhart City Administrator Chad Sweet points to thick growth of the in-
vasive species Scotch broom along the Fire Trail on Tuesday in Gearhart. The
city of Gearhart is looking at options for controlling the plant along the beach.
BELOW: The Scotch broom plant can be seen with a view along the Fire Trail.
just Scotch broom, but species such as this-
tle, blackberry vines that continue to spread
due to birds,” ecologist and panel partici-
pant Kathleen Sayce said. “I am interested in
restoring the prairie that was there, which is a
handful of native species of grass.”
Sayce said the city taking a hands-off
approach “leads you into a mess in the long
Safety, fi re concerns
Gearhart Police Chief Jeff Bowman said
the trees and other dune vegetation could lead
to larger problems, from widespread camping
violations to potential assaults, if the city does
“We, by not doing anything, are
inviting people in to live, to camp,” Bowman
said. “It’s bad for Gearhart to have all that,
in my opinion, as a law enforcement offi cer.
You can’t see 5 or 6 feet in front of you half
the time and I usually have my gun out
because I don’t know who I’m going to
“We have the ‘no plan’ plan, and I think that’s one of the
reasons why we ended up where we are today.”
Chad Sweet
city administrator
CANNON BEACH — Guests at Cannon
Beach hotels and vacation rentals could soon
pay room taxes on charges for pets, late check-
out, extra guests, hot tubs and cancellations.
After reaching a consensus Tuesday, the
City Council plans to amend the municipal
code in February to clarify that the room tax
applies to non optional fees . Optional charges,
such as pay-per-view movies, room service or
minibars, will remain untaxed.
L odging operators had complained that
the new rules had been sprung on them with-
out public discussion.
Cannon Beach Vacation Rentals owner
Linda Beck-Sweeney told the City Coun-
cil Tuesday that lack of clarity about the new
requirements affected her business.
“All this has placed an unnecessary hard-
ship on the lodging community,” Beck-Swee-
ney said . “Our lodging community is very
generous to our community in many ways
and we all work hard to bring quality ser-
vices to all of our guests and deserve respect
for that effort. If the city no longer respects
the lodging community, what about the larger
community of Cannon Beach?”
See ROOM TAX, Page 7A
seeks clarity
on measure
Attorney: Vague
language could have
The Daily Astorian
WARRENTON — To avoid confusion
and possible litigation, the City Commission
is hoping to clarify, and perhaps modify, a vot-
er-approved initiative that restricts the city’s
ability to divest itself of expensive assets.
At a town hall meeting Thursday, the com-
mission asked people who drafted, and voted
for, the m easure in the November election to
explain the intent and what they wanted to
achieve .
The measure amended the city charter to
require that when the city seeks to “sell, trade,
divest, or otherwise dispose of” an asset val-
ued at $100,000 or more (in 2014 dollars),
voters must approve the transaction by a dou-
ble-majority. This means that voter turnout
must exceed 50 percent, and more than half of
those voters must say “yes” to the deal.
Astoria Ford’s move creates options by Youngs Bay
City believes
land could be
a case study
The Daily Astorian
Dane Gouge started sell-
ing Fords in December at the
North Coast Retail Center in
Warrenton, leaving the lots
around his former dealership
in Astoria empty, and some
wondering what will happen
to the waterfront property he
left behind.
The site, which includes
three lots, more than 3.5 acres
of buildable land, 30,000
square feet of existing build-
ing space and 40 acres of
mostly submerged land over
Youngs Bay, is owned by Ruth
Birdwell, the widow of for-
mer Pacifi c Northwest auto
dealer Ray Birdwell, who died
in 2013.
The property listing for the
site expired last week. Broker
David Hoggard said he hasn’t
heard back on what to do next.
Birdwell was not available for
“I’m not sure exactly what
their plans are at this time,”
Hoggard said . “Right now, it’s
off the market temporarily.”
The properties are all
zoned general commercial,
which allows anything from
parking lots and restaurants
to hotels and apartments. The
most recent property records
showed the combined real
market value at about $3 mil-
lion. The properties had been
listed at $3.5 million.
The site is of special inter-
est to the city, which is trying
to fi nd ways to diversify Asto-
ria’s economy beyond tourism.
“Whoever buys it is going
to have to be creative with the
use of the property,” said Com-
munity Development Director
Kevin Cronin.
Cronin said the city will
look at the site as part of
Advance Astoria, a fi ve-year
Edward Stratton/The Daily Astorian
The former Astoria Ford dealership on Marine Drive, with
more than 3.5 buildable acres of general commercial
property overlooking Youngs Bay, is a special focus of the
city’s Advance Astoria economic development effort.