Oregon CoastCoast: Simple Design Elements help Townhomes Face Winter Tempests

February 6, 2000

By Gayle H. Karol
Homes & Real Estate Editor

Winter weather conditions on Oregon's north coast present a remarkably reliable litmus test for the beach home buyer: If you can stand facing the wind on Neahkahnie Mountain or watch for whales from Cape Lookout on a stormy day in January, you've got the right salt.

Weather is one of the abiding attractions that entices vacation- and year-round-home buyers to the coastal bays of Clatsop and northern Tillamook counties. Another is privacy: You have to want to get there, because much of scenic Oregon Highway 101 veers inland along that section of the coast.

A third attraction just might be timing. This winter, some prime properties have reduced their prices, designed special deals or added new financing to boost winter sales.

Nehalem Point

Respect for privacy -- people's and nature's -- also characterizes the philosophy at Nehalem Point, a lush development on a spit studded with spruce, fir, hemlock, huckleberry and sea grasses across the Nehalem River from Oregon 101 just south of Manzanita. The pristine parcel was once earmarked for 240 home sites and a commercial center by the city of Nehalem before an investment partnership from Portland revised its future.

Nehalem Point Inc. President Darryl Carter and his partners found the peninsula untouched, with the Nehalem Bay estuary on two sides and a mile of Nehalem River frontage on a third. A veritable wildlife sanctuary marks the property's western boundary, and Nehalem Bay State Park and the Pacific Ocean are next door.

Working with Portland architect Michael McCulloch, WaterLeaf Architecture & Interiors, the developers re-platted the 220-acre secluded site, preserving 150 acres as open green space and master-planning a gated community with 41 homesites that easily blend into the beauty.

"This is a place where you can relax, watch the fog roll in, trace the elk across the marsh, fish the Nehalem and restore your faith in the balance of man and nature," McCulloch wrote in describing the site.

Prices start at $69,950 and range to $139,500 for the 34 remaining lots available in the first phase. Developer Carter said the property will remain practically unchanged on three sides. A future phase will be platted only on the south end, where the peninsula protrudes into the west end of the bay.

So arresting is the site and a recently completed house McCulloch designed as Nehalem Point's model that it attracted producers at HGTV, who selected it for the cable television channel's 4th Annual Dream House Giveaway (see related story, Page H1). At the time, only one other house had been built; both were by Portland builder James Frank.

Frank's homes and all houses built at Nehalem Point are subject to plan review, ensuring designs and materials minimize the impact on the natural setting.

One recently completed and approved bargain is a rustic cottage plan starting at less than $200,000, including land. Designed by Andrew Montgomery, a Portland architect, the modular plan comes with a menu of expandable options. The basic plan has a master suite, fireplace and a loft in 1,200 square feet. The design uses recycled and rustic materials left raw to blend into both natural wooded and open spaces. Details on the menu of options are available from the Nehalem Point sales office (see Resources, Page H2).

Four miles of nature trails meander through the property, affording protected access to plants and animals typical of Oregon's coastal estuaries.

Neahkahnie Mountain, which rises north of Manzanita and was called "place of the fire god" by Native Americans, protects Nehalem Point from harsh weather, according to Carter. When foul conditions loom, he said, the marine fog descends all around the area, but there will be a "hole" of calm just south of the mountain -- making the bay as smooth as a lake.

"They call it the Manzanita doughnut," Carter said.

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