“Unsurprisingly,” Says ORCA, the Board of Commissioners Approved the Pipeline

From the February 2018 Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter :

“Elk River Property Development requested a permit from Curry County for a pipeline to carry effluent from the City of Port Orford to the proposed golf course at Knapp Ranch. During the hearings process in Fall 2017, planning commission members discovered that ERPD’s permit for the golf course, issued by the Board of Commissioners, expired. The permit required the applicants to apply for and receive a time extension within one year – by January 2016. They never did so, and the permit expired on its own terms two years ago. The planning commission therefore denied the ERPD pipeline application.

“Fast forward to February 2018. The applicants appealed to the Board of Commissioners. Unsurprisingly, they granted ERPD the permit for the pipeline [on February 14]. But it was very surprising indeed to hear the Curry County Planning Director, Carolyn Johnson, state openly that ERPD did not need a time extension. BOC decided simply to ignore the condition, trying to keep the original permit valid by fiat. But the law does not work like this; it has rules that must be followed.  [emphasis added]

“The applicants argue the permit is valid because Curry County ordinances under some circumstances allow ‘substantial construction’ on the project to stand in for getting a time extension. However, the County ordinance (CCZO 7.050.4) also allows the Director or Commission at its discretion to issue conditional use permits which must be periodically reviewed to make sure the permit conditions are being complied with. Using this provision, the BOC-approved permit required a time extension in one year, which the applicants failed to get. That is the project’s death knell – unless they apply for a new permit.

“But let’s look at the applicant’s argument – did they initiate development before the permit expired? ERPD argues that clearing part of the land of gorse, for which they spent approximately $16,500, and sinking two wells costing about $12,000, both in 2015, constitutes ‘starting development.’ This is very questionable.

“The 2015 golf course permit required the applicant to submit a wetland delineation report to the Department of State Lands for review and approval. The applicants never submitted one. DSL regulations warn applicants that if they begin work in wetlands without a permit, the landowner may be subject to enforcement action. It is very likely that in the gorse-clearing activities, ERPD violated this regulation.

“So what does this all mean? It all means that BOC approved an effluent pipeline based on an invalid permit, and gave the developers a green light which the law does not in fact allow them. This invalid permit problem will crop up again and again if ERPD continues to try and get other necessary permits to continue the long-expired project.”