Dear Wheeler community member,
You have recently received a letter from the City giving the facts and timeline about the applications filed by Ken Ulbricht of Botts Marsh LLC for the Botts Marsh upland property over the last two years, and the city’s actions in the public processes. We copy the city’s update at the end of this newsletter for you, in case you wish to refer to it again.
The most immediate action is a new City Council hearing on the original Botts Marsh LLC application approved by the former City Council two years ago. After two lawsuits, that application, for a hotel and a fish processing/sales plant plus restaurant, is being heard by City Council again on remand from the Land Use Board of Appeals. The hearing will be at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 24th. We need people to attend the hearing and submit testimony! Because this is a new hearing, you must resend any testimony you sent on this first Ulbricht application (which had two conditional use requests, for the hotel and the fish sales/restaurant building) in September 2019 — just re-date and make any additions you wish. Whatever happens on the Botts Marsh upland parcel will greatly impact Wheeler’s future. Please submit comments by Monday, May 16th to have your comments included in the packet — and come speak at the hearing on the 24th at 7:00 PM at City Hall. You need not be a resident of Wheeler to participate in this process. You may comment now even if you had not previously.
Send Comments to Mary Johnson, Wheeler City Manager pro tem
Hard Copy: Wheeler City Council, PO Box 177, Wheeler, OR 97147
Here are a few additional facts you might not know that are very important to bring up City Council on May 24th or in written testimony beforehand.
1, This section of Wheeler’s bayshore, called Botts Marsh, was originally part of the bay and for the first part of the 1900’s supported a commercial fishing industry, water transportation of logs, and then (once the parcel was filled in) a shingle mill. Most or all of the parcel is now fill land and in most places is only 1-2 ft above the designated FEMA flood plain. An earlier attempt in 2007 to develop the site with condominiums was dropped because of serious geologic problems.
2. Because of the previous industrial use of the site, there are soil contamination problems on parts of the property. An environmental review investigation was completed for Tillamook County in 2017. Mr. Ulbricht has never addressed the potential contamination in his application materials (including this application having a remand hearing May 24th), even though geotechnical engineers stipulate that any construction would necessitate the removal of large quantities of possibly toxic soils. This is a serious public health and safety issue the city needs to address at the hearing.
3. Geotechnical Engineers have cautioned that there are greater than normal risks associated with any construction on fill lands such as these highly compressible and liquefiable soils, which are also within the tsunami inundation zone. Conditions have not changed, and these issues have not been addressed. Botts Marsh LLC has only provided a recycled geological hazard report from 2007, not a current report dealing with this proposed development.
4. A key issue in the debate over this project is the role of Wheeler’s Vision Plan. The Land Use Board of Appeals has upheld the Vision Plan as a mandatory decision criterion — and also made it clear that the development limit under it is limited to no more than ten units. This is a very powerful tool for Wheeler to be able to chart its own future according to its own vision. The Vision Plan definitely applies to this Ulbricht project, and we encourage you to mention it and its standards.
4. In a town as small as Wheeler, a project that could involve major construction on as much as 50% of the town’s environmentally sensitive waterfront is necessarily one which should involve the community and address all potential problems. This has not occurred at any time since Botts Marsh LLC began submitting applications to the city. At no time has Mr. Ulbricht submitted an application for cottages as he originally presented to the community shortly after he purchased the property
5. The Wheeler waterfront is not a backstreet industrial parcel – It is the most visible piece of beautiful bay coastline to everyone traveling on Highway 101. The accessibility and the historical qualities of the three-block town make it one of the most photographed sites on the Oregon coast. A proposal to have the City of Wheeler purchase this Botts Marsh upland property is still on the table, but Mr. Ulbricht has not thus far moved it forward, though grants and loans are available to the city. Past attempts to purchase the parcel have failed due to financial problems.