A new Gearhart firehouse, potential new ZIP code and downtown business moves were among the big stories in Gearhart in 2021.

Gearhart is working with planners to bring the 30-acre Cottages at Gearhart subdivision off Highlands Lane into the city’s urban growth boundary in a land swap for acreage in the city’s “no-build” zone near the ocean. The land would be used for a firehouse and police station. The current proposed location off of Highlands Lane had been scheduled for November, but a ballot challenge bumped that until next spring.

At the start of the year, Gearhart was hoping to transform a site on North Cottage into the future location for the firehouse, currently housed on Pacific Way.

Threats of litigation at the proposed High Point location on North Marion Avenue and a reluctant seller were among the reasons Gearhart is looking at new sites for the city’s firehouse.

Gearhart voters turned down a request for a fire station in 2006 when the city wanted to construct a municipal building that combined the firehouse with City Hall. A new proposal at the High Point site on North Marion is undergoing review.

Since that time the city has recognized the need to replace the aging station on Pacific Way, considered at risk during a tsunami and earthquake.

Even without the homeowners association’s approval, the city could have pursued eminent domain to demonstrate public need for the new station at the High Point site, according to the city attorney, but rezoning, annexation and other legal issues could have complicated the process.

The Highlands site presents an outcome where everyone wins, city staff said, with lower land costs and a safe elevation. The elevation at the site is between 70 feet to 72 feet, 10 feet higher than the High Point site.

Cottages at Gearhart LLC hopes to exchange two lots outside Gearhart’s urban growth boundary with the city for use as a park and a new firehouse and resiliency station. Approval for the process must first pass muster with the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development, which oversees the administrative process. Once land is included in an urban growth boundary, it is eligible for annexation to the city.

The developer plans 39 to 40 houses in the neighboring 30-acre development.

In June, the City Council approved $80,000 from the building reserve fund for due diligence in planning, architecture and geotechnical engineering services for the Highlands Lane site.

A bond vote originally scheduled for November was delayed after a challenge to the ballot measure by Gearhart residents Harold Gable and Jack Zimmerman. While the city ultimately won the challenge in Clatsop County Circuit Court, the hearing pushed the vote past the filing deadline until next year.

There will also be scheduled public meetings to present some of this information in the near future as well, Sweet said, beginning around the new year. “We’ll continue the discussions as often as we can.”

Post office

The Gearhart Post Office became a contract satellite office of the Seaside Post Office in 1961. The change was made as a cost saving measure; at the time, the U.S. Postal Service agreed that Gearhart would continue to receive mail addressed to “Gearhart, Oregon.”

In 2021, officials began the process to give Gearhart its own ZIP code, 97139.

Mail and packages are frequently mistakenly delivered to Seaside because of similar street names between the two cities. Some insurance companies use ZIP code as part of their underwriting process, Councilor Brent Warren wrote in a report to the City Council. Some Gearhart homeowners have been denied homeowners insurance or may have paid higher premiums because the distance to Seaside was mistakenly considered too far from their residence.

The population of Gearhart, at 1,800, far exceeds smaller communities with their own ZIP code, including Arch Cape, Hammond, Manzanita and Tolovana.

The chain to getting a new ZIP begins with a letter to the U.S. Postal Service district manager.

During the process, the post office will look at the overall impact on local postal customers, conducting surveys to see if the majority of residents favor the new ZIP code.

The district manager will evaluate costs, benefits and issues, and if approved a formal survey of all customers affected by the change conducted. If approved with a 50% majority and approvals from operations, processing and customer service divisions, the city could get its own ZIP code.

Business

When the Gearhart Crossing market and pub closed in 2018, planning commissioners identified a need to address business vacancies in the commercial core.

In 2020, the Planning Commission sought to modify the zoning code to improve the vitality of the city center while maintaining the quiet residential character called for in the city’s comprehensive plan.

This year, the City Council approved those changes, which enables downtown businesses to use 50% of their property for residential purposes.

Parking requirements for eating and drinking establishments will be eased, and a 10 p.m. closing time eliminated. Cafes may offer outdoor and sidewalk seating for patrons.

In October, the city passed a new ordinance prohibiting commercial contractors from work on Sundays. The ordinance aims to provide residents a day of rest from a city with a growth spurt.

The passage comes over objections of contractors who have said the ban would cripple operations and hurts their ability to serve customers.

Business owners and contractors rallied to stop the move, but ultimately proved unsuccessful.

The new rules won’t apply to homeowners working on their properties. Other exemptions come for city repairs, Gearhart golf course maintenance and emergency repairs like roof or major storm damage. In the case of non-emergencies, the city administrator may issue a permit for five working days. The permit may be revoked if complaints arise by working outside of the permit parameters.

Police will have enforcement responsibility, with fines of up to $500 for each violation. Each day a violation occurs or continues constitutes a separate offense.

While the grocery remained vacant, another iconic Gearhart business changed hands.

Traci Williams, who has owned the shop on Pacific Way in Gearhart for the past several years, announced the $1 million sale.

In October the property was purchased by Pen Pen Industries LLC, of Portland, which lists Grammy Award winner André Allen Anjos as the registered agent.

As with many historical buildings, the Sweet Shop has gone through several transitions. In the 1920s, the business was known as Poppino’s Sweet Shop, which operated as a soda fountain. One side became a high-end beauty salon in the 1950s, later an antique shop.

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