When Lee Hullinger purchased a lot on SW Anchor Avenue in Lincoln City to build his future retirement home it was met by much opposition from neighboring residents.
This sparked a heated debate in the City Council chambers on Aug. 5.
In order to build a home on the lot at 2461 SW Anchor Ave., Hullinger had to fill out a geotechnical report to meet the standards that are required for building along the coast. The report includes a site description, description of the fronting beach, analyses of erosion and flooding potential, assessment of potential reactions to erosion episodes and recommendations from the engineering geologist.
For this, Hullinger hired President and Principal Engineering Geologist J. Douglas Gless from HG Schlicker & Associates, Inc. in Oregon City. After his analysis, Gless determined that the lot would be suitable for building and the Lincoln City planning and community development director approved the application.
The decision was then appealed by Michael Kimbrell, who owns an adjacent lot to Hullinger’s property. After the Planning Commission upheld the decision on June 18, Kimbrell along with another property owner on SW Anchor Ave., Becky Morfitt, both filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision, leading to a special City Council meeting Aug. 5.
At the Monday meeting, the City Council had the opportunity to hear background information from Planning Director Lindsey Sehmel, statements from Kimbrell, Morfitt and Hullinger, explanations from Gless and a few public testimonies.
During Sehmel’s opening report, the City Council looked at several maps of the property that sits on a bluff. There appeared to be confusion among some of the council members on whether the proposed structure met the requirements for building on a bluff.
According to the requirements, the footprint of any new structure or any horizontal addition requiring at least one footing in ocean bluff areas must be set back from the bluff a distance of at least 60 times the annual erosion rate (determined by the geotechnical analysis) plus five feet. Gless’ report showed that the current bluff edge sat at 100’ and would be 90’ after the 10’ excavation for the daylight basement of the house.
Although not in attendance at the meeting, Morfitt had a representative speak on her behalf, Whitney Morfitt, following Semel’s report. Morfitt, a retired civil engineer with over 30 years of geotechnical engineering experience had some concerns with Gless’ analysis.
“Our objection that I ask now is will the house be structurally stable and not project out over the bluff and cause undue stress to the existing bluff?” Morfitt said. “The concern would be for the safety of the general public from debris falling to the beach.
"We are also concerned that the aesthetics of the house would project over the bluff.”
Morfitt said Hullinger is attempting to build a house that would be larger than the area permits and raised more concerns of erosion and drainage on that lot.
Kimbrell had the opportunity to speak next and showed the council several detailed photos of the lot and raised some of the same concerns about the bluff location and stability of the lot.
“Where is the bluff?” Kimbrell asked. “Are they accurate in what they are saying, which I don’t believe they are. Is the water being properly addressed? Why hasn’t someone gone out and measured these things... because I have.”
Kimbrell urged the City Council to have the City Engineer go out and measure the bluff location to create an accurate depiction.
“I think it was very sloppy work,” Kimbrell said of the geotechnical report. “When I looked at the report, I was very surprised. It just seemed like so many things were unexplained.”
Gless then had the opportunity to explain and give more clarity on findings following Kimbrell’s testimony. Gless addressed some of the discrepancies surrounding the bluff measurements.
“If we dig down ten feet, as proposed, we are actually further out and we gain space (from the bluff edge),” Gless said.
The City Council raised a few concerns about the date of the maps they were presented with, as the latest map was from 2009 and photos were from 2015. However, Gless stated that the topography shown in the maps that predate the 2009 map are still accurate today after his measurements.
Gless also addressed concerns of erosion on the property, stating that they would not develop on a lot that would be susceptible to erosion.
“If you go up and down the Lincoln City bluffs, you will see various amounts of erosion and places that are in dire need of moving the house back or having it underpinned… We are not developing at one of those sites,” Gless said. “We get to go in fresh on this.”
Gless also stated that the construction would not have an impact on the bluff stability.
The Last Word
The City Council then heard public testimony from two community members who were concerned with the environmental impact of the proposed lot, long-term safety and how the proposed building would not fit in with the aesthetics of the community.
Before Council deliberations, Hullinger had the opportunity to speak about his intentions for the lot.
“This view is unlike any other on the Pacific Northwest… it’s beautiful,” Hullinger said. “I want to keep it open for all people coming by for coffee, lunch, to take pictures. This is not a selfish motive on my part. I want to build a home there.”
Hullinger spoke about finding the land five years ago and his dream of building his retirement home on the lot.
“Whether this particular house is built, whether we keep the bluff where it is, it doesn’t matter… I’ll build something there,” Hullinger said. “This is my land, I love it there and I want to share it with anybody who wants to enjoy it as well.”
Hullinger said he has been following all the rules and regulations and asked that the council would enforce their laws and ordinances.
The City Council then closed the hearing and briefly deliberated on the matter at hand. They then voted unanimously to deny the appeal of the planning commission decision and approve Hullinger’s application.
“I was impressed by the engineering report that was received and approved by the planning director and I heard no testimony that would counter that,” Councilmen Rick Mark said.
The appellants will now have the opportunity to appeal the City Council decision to be discussed at a later date.
To watch the full meeting and hear all testimonies, visit the City website at