Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Land Use -- More Unintended Consequences

I just posted a comment about how the opponents of "vice" on the Oregon Coast are having generally the reverse effect of the one they want to achieve. To a degree, the same thing is happening with land use planning. In this case, however, the people who are upset ought to be happy. They just don't seem to understand.

The two biggest residential developments on the Oregon Coast in recent years, perhaps ever, are Lone Ranch near Brookings and Villages at Cascade Head at the north end of Lincoln City. People quote specific numbers of lots, but these are all preliminary plans and who knows how many will actually be built. However, it's safe to say that hundreds and hundreds of dwellings will be built at each one.

Both of these projects drew vocal opposition, some local and some the usual regional protesters. The arguments tend to be the same, and they boil down to "too big." But "big" is where land use regulations lead. Almost every development stirs up opposition and it's easy to take an appeal to LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals). This takes time and costs the developer a ton of legal fees.

But the cost of going to LUBA is roughly the same for a small project or a large one. The same hearings, answering the same questions, but a large developer can spread those costs over a lot of homes. For a small developer, the delay and expense can be a killer.

So as long as we have land use regulations, expect to see more rather than fewer big projects. Lone Ranch is on a mining claim that U.S. Borax abandoned a century ago. Borax is now owned by London-based Rio Tinto Mining. These are people with long time horizons and deep pockets. Waiting another five years would be nothing to them.

And frankly, I'm happy about it. Both Lone Ranch and Villages at Cascade Head are well designed, maintaining a lot of green space, putting in plenty of infrastructure before they build. Compare either of them with a lot of subdivisions on the Oregon Coast that have developed every buildable square foot and a rational person ought to be favorably impressed.


Unintended Consequences in the War on Vice

I shouldn't call gambling, or "gaming" as they prefer to call it, vice but I'm old-fashioned and it was one of the vices when I was growing up, along with pornography. There are clearly still people who think that way on the Oregon Coast and they have some big signs telling everyone. Unfortunately, they are probably having the reverse effect.

In Florence, we have a casino and have had for several years. All the legal hoops have been gone through and the tribes are building permanent facilities to replace the temporary ones they first opened. A new hotel is going in. It's a booming affair.

Meanwhile, on Highway 101, the local opponents (People Against a Casino Town, or PACT) have a big sign that reads "No Casino." Evidently, they haven't got the legal message yet and there is still some silly lawsuit working its way through some courts somewhere. The folks at the casino tell me that they have people coming to their front door, commenting that they wouldn't have even known that Florence had a casino except for the big sign on 101.

Up in Lincoln County, some local opponents of pornography have put large signs, again on Highway 101, next to a couple of "adult stores." The one in Newport reads, "Pornography Hurts Everyone." It is much more visible than any signs on the store itself. I'm guessing that many people find the store because of the sign.

It's just a thought, but maybe it's not a great tactic to give a lot of free publicity to activities you just want to go away.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Real Estate in Bandon

When I wrote an article earlier in the year about the most expensive homes on the Oregon Coast, one of them that stood out was an old (1935), middle-size (2000 sq ft) house in Bandon for $1.8 million. On 75 feet of waterfront. It worked out something like $2000 per inch of waterfront. I thought that was a litle excessive, but I didn't actually call it insane.

In a few months, we're going to do a retrospective on those homes to see how many of them sold and at what price. I get the feeling that there aren't quite as many people now ready to buy property at any price on the theory that someone would take it off their hands the next month. But if this one sold for anything like the asking price, we'll know that the boom is still underway.

Actually, silly those these prices sound, oceanfront real estate now sells for multiples of prices that, a few years ago, people like me thought were silly. There just doesn't seem to be any limit to what people will pay for it and, as people say, they aren't making any more of it.


Champagne Patio at Sea Towne in Newport

Years ago, we ran a restaurant contest in Oregon Coast magazine. We were very serious about it, and signed people up as reviewers. Careful attention to prevent ballot box stuffing (a problem with our first effort) and all that.

And to everyone's surprise, the winner for the "Best Wine List" went to Champagne Patio in Newport, rather than Salishan. Salishan expected to win and they were not amused when I told them they took second. Lots of people put their little plaques on the wall. Salishan definitely didn't.

The deal was that people loved how the wine list worked at Champagne Patio. It's a combination store and restaurant. The wine shop part has one of the better selections of wine on the coast. You can buy a good bottle there at a competitive price, walk over to the resturant side and enjoy it with your meal for a $2 corkage.

That's pretty much unheard of, and I suspect our readers were responding to the wonderful deal rather than the quality of the list. Salishan has thousands of bottles in their cellar and there's no real competition for who's really number one. But Champagne Patio had this great deal, which the new owners are keeping.

They also have a fabulous razor clam chowder. I'm sure it would have gone well with a white wine, but I was busy selling ads and couldn't indulge.


Pacific City, next Cannon Beach?

It's a very small town, off the beaten track, but it's starting to get noticed. A lot of this is due to Jeff Schoens and Mary Jones, a husband-wife team that has developed several neighborhoods out towards Cape Kiwanda as well as the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, the premier accommodation on the Three Capes Loop. Downtown Pacific City is starting to develop as well. Most of the lodging tends to be of the budget variety, but some of the restaurants are first class. We really enjoyed the Delicate Palate and the Grateful Bread has been a class act for several years. A great way to start a morning.

Some new art galleries and shops have popped up, too. It's not Cannon Beach yet, but it's moving in that direction.


The Restaurant at Sandpines Golf

After bursting on the scene about 10 years ago, scoring "Best New Public Golf Course" from Golf Magazine in its first year, Sandpines has had an up and down history. Its first owners went broke and it second Japanese owner also ran out of cash to finish it. So for years, it was a spectacular course with a "clubhouse" that was basically a manufactured home.

Now it's got the kind of clubhouse it deserves. Unfortunately, it seems that in at least one area, they've cut corners. Several people have told me that the restaurant is overpriced and the food barely adequate. People who spend the kind of money that it costs to play a round at Sandpines aren't generally going to quibble about the cost, but they expect something special at the prices Sandpines is charging. Hopefully, this is something they'll take care of.


Historic Anchor Inn

I was driving along Highway 101 in Lincoln City, when I noticed a new sign by the road. "Historic Anchor Inn," it said. That seemed odd, since I couldn't remember any lodging there at all in the past, so I turned in to check it out.

Originally built in the 1940's as the Taft Heights Motor Inn, it had been simply the Anchor Inn for many years and, in the words of its present owner Kip Ward, "the worst motel in Lincoln City." Kip has had it for nine months and is completing renovating it.

And it's looking good! He took one wing with sixteen rooms sharing baths and has converted it to eight suites -- bedroom, bath, and sitting room. The place is full of character and old wood, but the bedding, plumbing, and so forth are all new and first class. Yet it's cheap! Also easy to get a reservation, since almost nobody seems to know about it yet. Call him at 800-582-8611.


Interesting Weather

Weather is never bad. You just need the right attitude to appreciate it. We're having some interesting weather on the coast, especially from where we live (Florence, about midway) to the Columbia. One of our ad reps just moved in to a condo in Rockaway Beach. Right on the ocean, which seemed great when she looked at it during the summer, but suddenly with a wild Pacific storm comine ashore, she's starting to wonder.

Down here, the rainfall hasn't been nearly as much. It's been enough to loosen some of the cliff above Highway 101 around Sea Lion Caves (12 miles north), but the rivers aren't overflowing. Different story up north. Tillamook has a lot of low lying land and it always seems to be flooding. Somebody from the Weather Channel was up there this morning this morning giving it some unwanted publicity. A woman from the Seaside Chamber told me yesterday that Highway 101 was cut between Seaside and Cannon Beach.

But it seems to be calming down now. The Weather Channel is talking about an even bigger storm way out in the Pacific headed our way on Friday. We'll just have to wait and see.

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