Saddle Rock, off Crook Point, a vital seabird nesting area. Photo by Dave Ledig. Last year, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) agreed with Oregon Shores that Curry County’s approval of a proposed resort development at Crook Point violated land use laws and the county’s own comprehensive plan. LUBA found in our favor on all three points of our appeal, and “remanded” the case back to the county.
After a long delay, the county is planning a “remand hearing” on the issue before the planning commission. It was scheduled for Monday, Sept. 10, in the Courthouse Office Annex in Gold Beach. However, the county recently postponed the hearing. We await a new date, and will participate vigorously whenever the county decides it is ready to handle the hearing.
LUBA found that Curry County’s decisions in approving the Crook Point Golf Resort proposal were seriously flawed. In response to an appeal of the county’s decision (by the planning commission, affirmed by the Curry County Board of Commissioners) by our Land Use Program, working through our Coastal Law Project, LUBA found that the county had made errors that would have to be corrected before a decision could be made on the proposed resort. Oregon Shores was represented by attorney Courtney Johnson of the Crag Law Center, our partners in the Coastal Law Project. Board and staff members were also actively engaged in this important issue.
The proposed resort would be a massive intrusion on what is at present one of the wildest and most ecologically important areas remaining on the Oregon coast. It would include an 18-hole golf course, golf practice facilities, a 9-hole junior golf course, 175 overnight guest rooms, a golf lodge with restaurant, spa lodge, recreation center, and equestrian center. The property, long held by the eponymous Crook family, contains steep slopes, landslide areas, creeks and wetlands.
The proposed site, south of Pistol River, is adjacent to the Crook Point Unit of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and borders two state parks. Just offshore is the second most important seabird nesting site in Oregon, and the intertidal area bordering the property is considered the most diverse in Oregon by researchers. A major development in this remote area could affect these ecologically important public resources in many ways.
Our appeal didn’t directly address these underlying conservation concerns, but dealt with the county’s actions in the formal land use planning process. We argued that the county could not approve the development, even tentatively, without first reviewing a geologic hazard assessment of the property and proposed development as required by the county’s own ordinances. Without a full geologic hazard assessment, which would provide an analysis of the risks from the many existing landslides on the property and the suitability of the site for development, the county lacks the information needed to decide whether development could be completed safely without risk to human life and property and adverse impact to adjacent lands.
We also argued that the county erred in concluding that the proposed development was not situated on “coastal shorelands” as defined by Statewide Land Use Goal 17, which require more stringent development review. The county ignored its own map showing the coastal shorelands boundary.
Our third claim was that the county failed to follow its own code in ensuring that adverse impacts to nearby lands like the wildlife refuge be avoided first, and minimized only if avoidance is not possible. The county relied only on measures to minimize impacts and never considered measures to avoid impacts all together.
LUBA agreed, sustaining all three “assignments of error” and sending the decision back to the county. Whatever happens from this point, our successful appeal has great significance in and of itself. This was an important victory in defense of the integrity of the land use process.
The county has been reconsidering its Coastal Shorelands policy as a result of the LUBA finding, and plans to hold a workshop on the subject this fall, but has decided to plunge ahead with the remand hearing before having addressed the concerns we took to LUBA.
Any citizen can testify at the hearing, or beforehand in writing, although testimony will be limited to the issues raised in the appeal. Write to the Curry County Planning Commission care of David Pratt, Public Services/Planning Director, 94235 Moore St., Suite 113, Gold Beach, OR 97444; or contact him at (541) 247-3228, or via email.
Contact: Phillip Johnson, Executive Director, (503) 238-4450, or EMAIL