Dunes City sets date on town hall for rentals, welcomes student from ‘Dunes, France’

(Left) Laurine Tonnele, a resident of Dunes, France, talks with Dunes City Administrator Jamie Mills on Sept. 21.

Oct. 5, 2022 — A visitor from France, small land plots and law enforcement were the topics of discussion at the Dunes City Council meeting, held Sept. 21.

On top of the agenda was setting an official time for a town hall to discuss rentals in the community. The date was set for Monday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m. at Dunes City Hall, 82877 Spruce Street in Westlake.

The public is invited to participate, as the council will be looking into improving the city’s current code regarding rentals and request community involvement.

But before the meeting, there was a visitor from Dunes City’s sister city — Dunes, France.

Years earlier, former Dunes City Councilor Peter Howison frequently visited the small city of 2,000, which sits an hour from Bordeaux. Over time, the cities became sisters. Dunes City Hall has a framed flag from Dunes, France, which was brought over by Howison.

This year, Laurine Tonnele, a young resident of Dunes came to Eugene on a foreign exchange program to teach elementary education and learned about the connection. 

“I didn’t know about this relationship before I came,” said Tonnele, bringing pictures and gifts for the city. “We have the same name, Dunes, but for us it’s just hills.”

Tonnele was impressed with the dunes, on which she took rides earlier in the day, and stated she was glad she came and looked forward to coming back.

In public comments, Aaron Bowen addressed the council on concerns he had regarding the Little Woahink Heights, also known as Cedar Ridge.

Bowen’s first concern was that there were multiple lots on the development well below the size of one acre, the minimum size for properties to build, per city code.

“One of those reasons is the ability of the soils to absorb residential effluent from a septic system,” Bowen said.

Other concerns included issues with drainage in the area and soil problems.

Mills stated that the city was aware of the issues, and had been attempting to address them.

Regarding the lot size, if a buyer bought one piece of property and wanted to build on it, they would have to apply for a variance.

“But chances are, they would not be able to build on just one lot,” Mills explained later. “It’s tiny. They can’t get septic and water to fit there, and you can’t live in an RV.”

Multiple smaller lots could be purchased to equal one acre, thus aligning with city code, but so far, they are being sold individually.

In the meeting, Mills told Bowen that they have reached out to real estate agents, giving them information on the lots, and explaining that the city will “stick to” their codes. That includes issues like setbacks and slopes.

“We are strict on setbacks, we are strict on alternative systems,” Mills said. “If there are slopes, they have to have a geotech. If there’s any kind of wetlands, or if they’re within a certain distance of the water, they have to have to have DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) weigh in.”

Ultimately, Mills said it was up to the buyer. 

“Due your due diligence before you buy,” she said.

Picking up from previous meetings, discussion continued on the creation of a Neighborhood Watch. Mills reported talks she had with the Florence Police Department about using their dispatch. For a fee, Florence could work as a dispatch, but calls would still be routed to Lane County Sheriff’s Office for response.

“It wouldn’t be FPD that would show up, unless nobody else is available,” Mills said.

Regardless of Florence involvement, Councilor Tom Mallen said that a neighborhood watch would be good for the community.

“We can use radio, cellphones, we can look and we can listen, and that’s about it,” he said. “But that’s all it takes to keep these bad guys from doing bad things.”

Mallen also had the idea of replacing “code enforcement” on the city’s vehicle with “law enforcement,” because “that's what we would be doing if we found something amiss.”

Siuslaw News asked Mills about the liability issues involved with promoting code enforcement as law enforcement, and she stated she would have to look into it.

The need for law enforcement was underscored with two stories regarding recent incidences.

First, Mills was working late one night when she heard tapping on the door.

“A neighborhood person that has grown up in this neighborhood and has mental health issues has taken to coming into the city,” Mills said. “The other night I was here working late and I locked all the doors.”

She heard a tap but didn’t answer.

“Next thing I know he was kicking the door, trying to get in, and scared the bejesus out of me,” Mills said. She added they were reviewing security cameras of the incident.

Councilor Susan Snow also saw issues in the neighborhood.

“We had transients that moved into the parking lot down here at the boat dock, and it was very disconcerting,” she said.

According to Snow, the park ranger from Wax Myrtle came over, stating they had just kicked them out of the park.

“They were known thieves, and we needed to get our guns out and lock up all of our stuff,” she said. “We had called the sheriff's department and they said they wouldn't do anything for 24 hours.”

Snow called Mills, who was able to get a response from the department. 

“Jamie, thank you for that,” Snow said.  “We had some single ladies that were around and they said they felt very uncomfortable with those people there. The park ranger that came to talk to us — I appreciate that.”

Elsewhere in the meeting, Mills discussed funds Dunes City had used from the American Recovery Act, which has been spent on various projects, from updating city technology to emergency storage.

A good portion of the funds have been used to fix failing water systems in subdivisions across Dunes City.

“They all come down at the same time. Alderwood didn't have any water, Fern acres went down,” Mills said later. “To this day, there's people who don't have water for a while, because it was too salty. And so we've been trying to figure out why. We don't know.”

The city has been helping subdivisions by using Recovery Act funds to repair systems, a process approved by the city through vote.

For the water report, Snow stated that she was still working with the state to find exact rules regarding water testing.

“We’re still working with them to get our program up with their new changes, and they are going to have a webinar to gain some insight on how to effectively use the new format,” she said.

Finally for the good of the order, Councilor Melissa Stinson brought up concerns regarding potholes on For Way. Mallen also brought up a large pothole on Cloud Nine, while Councilor Duke Wells discussed a house near the corner of Berry Lane and Manzanita Drive, where an RV has been parked that often makes traversing the area difficult for cars.

“I think it’s coming down to accountability,” Wells said. “It’s gone past the talking point, we’ve sent letters, we’ve had the fire department — something needs to be done.”

He also stated, “I think we need to start pulling rigs off of the street.”

Mills said the city could put a 72-hour notice on the vehicle for towing, and would look into other complaints. 

For more information, visit dunescityhall.com.