Party on as barn owner faces new fines in Gearhart

Party tents set up at Neacoxie Barn in Gearhart Sept. 19.

The owner of Neacoxie Barn in Gearhart is in more trouble with local officials.

Even while a decision awaits on Shannon Smith’s not guilty plea for hosting special events without a permit in municipal court, Smith was slapped with a series of civil administrative penalties from the city. Six $5,000 tickets each have been issued this summer by the city’s Building Official Jim Brien.

Tickets for using the barn without an occupancy permit were issued Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, added to four tickets delivered this summer as Smith continues to hold events at her barn.

Smith also received two zoning code violations of $500 each for the mid-September events. The tickets were delivered by Gearhart’s Police Chief Jeff Bowman personally, City Manager Chad Sweet said.

“Last year she only used tents, she didn’t use the inside of the barn,” Sweet said. “This year she used the barn, which doesn’t have an occupancy permit, six times.”

This year’s $30,000 worth of administrative fines are in addition to two additional administrative fines Smith has received since 2012, Sweet said. The first $5,000 fine was reduced by the City Council to $1 after Smith said she would follow city rules. The second fine, issued in 2014, was contested after Smith and her attorney stated barn fuctions were all personal or family events, which would be permitted of a private homeowner. “We backed off,” Sweet said.

“This year she continued to have events,” he added. “She never issued us a document saying they were friends and family, she just carried on, so we issued her civil administrative penalties for using the inside of the barn.”

Meanwhile, Judge John Orr is waiting for legal briefs from both the city and Smith or her attorney. He considered arguments from the city alleging Smith continues to host special events and gatherings despite a lack of an active conditional use permit allowing commercial activities. After Smith was ticketed for using her barn for two weddings held this summer, she contested the $500 citations, pleading not guilty to the charges and bringing the case to municipal court for hearing.

The city presented arguments that Smith’s conditional use permit had lapsed after several extensions over a period of several years.

Smith claimed that the conditional use permit is “what is called alive and valid upon remand.”

Smith said a conditional use permit was still pending, and she could “trigger it” at any time by appearing before the city’s planning commission. The Land Use Board of Appeals, which returned an earlier decision back to the city of Gearhart, “has not put a time frame for me to do that,” she said.

Smith said she declined further commission review because the political climate in Gearhart was “not right” for such a hearing.

She did not reply to a request for comment on the new series of fines.

While Orr considers the municipal court case, Smith is appealing all six civil administrative penalties, Sweet said. She will likely appear in Gearhart City Hall to face the City Council, which considers the appeal. If the fines are upheld, “about $35,000 would be sitting in our lien docket,” Sweet said.

On Monday, the city requested seven additional days to supply the court with a briefing as to how an opinion of the Land Use Board of Appeals is relevant to the cases embodied within the citations.

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