Noxious species, high grass, fire hazards and trees growing in the midst of foredunes are among unaddressed issues in Gearhart, resident Margaret Marino told city councilors at three separate fall meetings.

A Jan. 5 educational forum at the Gearhart Firehouse aims to remedy that.

Marino, who is working with homeowners along Ocean Avenue, seeks approval to manage vegetation on the dunes.

Right now, the city’s zoning code does not address mowing, removal of trees, noxious weeds or grasses.

Marino first came before the council in September when she sought permission to manage shore pines, Scotch broom, tansy, thistles and other noxious weeds.

In November, City Attorney Peter Watts advised before taking action, the city must revise their zoning code, a process that would be initiated by the Planning Commission and approved by City Council.

Watts advised the city to develop a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to managing the dunes.

“It makes sense to have a comprehensive plan they (homeowners) can bring to you and you can say ‘thumbs up, thumbs down,’” Watts said. “Under your current code, you can’t do that.”

A foredune management plan could also lead to state grants, Watts added. “In order to be eligible for those sorts of grants, you need a code switch.”

Marino has assembled a lineup of arborists, soil experts, and representatives from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Fish and Wildlife, the state’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, North Coast Land Conservancy and others.

“The city and planning commission will hear these experts at one forum — these people who have advised and want to engage with the city,” Marino said at December’s City Council meeting.

Kathleen Sayce, a certified ecologist who assessed the issue at a fall council meeting, will be among those participating at the educational forum

“You will get an unbiased review from her,” Marino said. “That is what she does. We’re very fortunate to have her.”

City Administrator Chad Sweet will “set the stage,” and members of the panel will present their views.

Fire Chief Bill Eddy and Police Chief Jeff Bowman will also participate in the event.

“One thing I’d like from the council is leadership and guidance at the forum,” Marino said. “For me the purpose of this is to learn from all these experts. I’m an engineer by training and education, and I believe in finding facts for people to make good decisions.”

At their December meeting, councilors were concerned that this be presented as an informational session rather than a public hearing.

“What we’re trying to accomplish at a town hall meeting is different than a ‘for or against thing,’” Sue Lorain said.

Marino said she hopes the meeting will provide enough information for a Planning Commission review in March.


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