Rockaway Beach’s City Council approved the city’s budget for fiscal year 2024 at their meeting on May 10.
They also named Sandy Johnson Rockaway Beach’s 2023 Volunteer of the Year and selected grand marshals for the July Fourth Parade.
The council unanimously approved the budget as recommended by the budget committee, with one clerical error corrected in a motion. They also extended the city’s contract with the Tillamook Sheriff’s Department for policing services and accepted state funding for the upcoming year.
The meeting started with presentations from Tillamook County Director of Community Development Sarah Absher on senate bill 406 and the proposed changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Plan.
Senate Bill 406 would open all cities in Oregon to the development of “missing middle” housing, i.e., duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and cottage clusters to help address the state’s affordable housing crisis. The bill would also provide funding for housing studies to communities across the state, and, according to Absher, would allow an opportunity to expand Rockaway Beach’s urban growth boundary.
The National Flood Insurance Plan provides FEMA backed flood insurance to property owners while also setting standards for local ordinances regulating development in floodplains.
The proposed changes to the plan were precipitated by a 2009 lawsuit brought against FEMA by the Audubon Society. The suit claimed that the National Flood Insurance Plan was causing harm to coho salmon, among other marine species, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
As a result of the suit, FEMA was ordered to commission the National Marine Fisheries Service to investigate those claims, leading to a 2016 biological opinion concurring with the suit’s claims.
This opinion called for the program to update its requirements to require new developments in the 100-year floodplain be built to a no net loss standard, meaning any loss in water retention in the floodplain would have to be completely offset.
These potential updates sparked a suit by Oregonians for Floodplain Protection in 2017, objecting to the requirement, and a congressionally legislated pause to implementation of the update in 2018. That pause expired in 2021 and efforts by retiring Congressman Peter DeFazio to extend it in late 2022 did not come to fruition.
Absher said that these updates would impact Tillamook County the most of any in the state, with its large proportion of floodplain. She also noted that an update to the model used to create maps of the 100-year floodplain was ongoing and is expected to increase the size of the plain.
Johnson was selected by the council as Volunteer of the Year in recognition for her wide-ranging service to the community. Johnson is a member of the planning commission and helps the city to write grants. She also participates in the organization of the July Fourth Parade and annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and helps to maintain the city’s landscaping by watering and caring for plantings around town.
The council selected Terry Walhood, Ronnie Duckworth and the Rockaway Roastery to serve as grand marshals for this year’s Fourth of July Parade, in recognition of their service to the community.
The council also discussed an increase to the city’s short-term rental (STR) license fee at their council workshop before the meeting. The proposed increase would double the fee from $250 to $500 and would allow the city to expand its STR inspection and enforcement efforts, according to City Manager Luke Shepard.
Councilor Mary McGinnis noted that the city’s current fee is well below other towns on Oregon’s north coast, all of which charge a minimum of $500. Mayor Charles McNeilly said that increased enforcement and inspection would allow the program to provide increased economic benefits for the city by removing unused properties from the pool.
The council will vote on the proposed increase at its regular meeting in June.
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