The Long Beach Peninsula lost one of our most important activists recently, Dr. John Campiche. In the 14 years that I knew him, he doggedly worked to make Pacific County accountable to follow Washington State land-use laws. He fought an old political system where private moneyed interests could override public rights. He cared about the Seaview dunes probably more than any of us and as Frank Glenn aptly said at his memorial, "The reason there is no development in the dunes today is because of John Campiche."
There are many reasons to fight development in the dunes. They're our watershed, filled with wetlands, some studies say they are likely to erode back to the primary dune; there could be a tsunami. They're beautiful and probably one of the peninsula's most valuable asset for tourism. The legal reasons are just as important and the county has performed embarrassingly sub par in handling this matter.
"Forgetting" to write a SEPA report until after the Doney condominium project had already begun is unconscionable. How could the county automatically deem this project having "non-significance", especially when it is the first (and hopefully the last) attempt at development in this area? At the previous hearing, why did the staff report sound like it came straight from the developer? The staff's job isn't to work for him; it is to work for the county and its citizens and provide an impartial view so informed decisions can be made. I understand there was no actual wetland survey. Perhaps if Matthew Doney had visited in the winters of 1991-93 when all of Seaview was under water, he might have rethought his development. Probably not. Just take a look at the projects he has already completed.
There are two houses just finished by Mr. Doney on the corner of Willows Road. That corner has been a murky, red swamp ever since I have been coming to Seaview. Those two homes now sit on fill and the road and storm drain have been reworked to squeeze in two bedroom houses where a tiny cabin once stood. The house on the south is the worst; I don't believe this house could have been built anywhere else. First, the health hazards are unknown both from the fill and the swamp. The drain in the front carries a continuous flow of noxious fluid. The driveway is perilous and one wrong step on the gas pedal of one's car and you'd be in the ditch. We worry about drownings at the beach, but what about this ditch that appears to be on private property? Could this be ditch considered an "attractive nuisance?" Should the developer have been required to build some kind of barrier? Should the county have to bear some of the responsibility as it approved this site and therefore becomes a de facto partner?
Just above these houses and across the road is the condominium project. Take a walk up to the front of these buildings and look down the hill toward the ocean. Yes, the view is stunning. But slope is riddled with uprooted trees and shrubbery and looks unstable. It appears as if the developer just bulldozed the top of the site to give himself a little more area to work with. After the debacle at The Capes in Tillamook County I can't believe an inspector signed off on this. When we get our old-fashioned winters back, these condos may become a liability. It's ironic that that drainage problems the condos could create might impact the very duneland Mr. Doney wants to develop. This seems short sighted at best.
This is the trouble with poorly planned development; the land gets ruined at everyone's expense, the developer makes his money and leaves, and the owners are left trying to get help from anyone, the county, the state, maybe even their commissioners. But the worst travesty is the spoiled land.
So this brilliant, kind man, John Campiche, has left his distinctive life and us. He envisioned what he hoped Seaview would look like in 100 years and with others, fought the make that vision a reality. But he knew that only a change in political climate and change of law would protect those dunes. Our fight continues this day.
Ann Skelton LeFors