Weeds, invasives targeted by new ordinance

An area of the Gearhart foredunes to be included under new tree and grass-cutting rules.

Get your clippers at ready.

On Wednesday, Gearhart city councilors approved an ordinance to permit greater leeway in cutting dune grass and invasive weeds.

Changes to the rules governing city’s beach overlay district will be more permissive in allowing people to cut Scotch broom and other noxious weeds and prune trees to maintain views.

Margaret Marino, who initiated the discussion of tree-trimming and cutting of invasive plants in late 2016, said the plan does not move fast enough or is properly funded to meet the habitat need. “It’s not an affordable code,” she said. “They chose to ignore all of the agencies that are tasked by the state for the management of invasive weeds.”

The city did not reach out and ask for input or support for these code changes from those homeowners directly impacted by these changes, she added.

In January 2017, residents filled the Gearhart fire station for a town hall meeting on an amendment permitting the removal of noxious weeds.

The workshop led to the formation of the dune vegetation committee, comprised of both permanent and part-time residents.

The committee presented its findings to the City Council last summer. City councilors agreed to consider recommendations from the committee after finding that city rules, written in 1994, failed to provide clear guidance.

The ordinance allows 30 percent of vertical trimming or thinning of shore pines and surf pines to maintain views. Trees over 6 inches may be trimmed only once per year. All trimming on city property must be submitted to the city by a tree-trimmer or arborist.

At Wednesday’s City Council hearing on the ordinance, Marino said the committee failed to take into consideration residents most directly affected.

Resident Margaret Green, who served on the dune vegetation committee, said the code involved compromise and the recommendations were well-discussed and well-crafted. She asked the city to rework language to eliminate the word “ocean views” from the amendment in order to expand to be a wider community value, including existing areas on public forestlands and reduce forest density. The ordinance does not need the qualifier “ocean views,” she said. “If the allowed practice actually create better ocean views, and some will, that would merely be a result of following the allowed practice.”

Green’s request was supported by councilor Kerry Smith, although Mayor Matt Brown said he was concerned that the rule could be “more permissive.” “But I think it’s the primarily the same thing, views along the dunes are primarily ocean views, but if that’s something the majority of council would prefer, I’m OK with it,” Brown said.

The ordinance passed, 4-1, with the elimination of the word “ocean” modifying views.

Mayor Matt Brown and Councilors Reita Fackerell, Paulina Cockrum, Kerry Smith and voting in its favor. Dan Jesse voted against.

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