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Planners OK storage permit at old Moose Lodge site

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

The Planning Commission held a Jan. 18 public hearing for and approved a conditional use permit allowing outdoor storage of recreational vehicles, trailers, cars and boats at the former Moose Lodge site at 4070 S. Santiam Hwy.
Commissioner David McLain commended property owner David Gillott for the improvements he’s made at the location.
“I think the community owes him a ‘thank you’ for what he’s done there and his efforts and the money he’s spent to improve that property,” McLain said.
Prior to the meeting, the commission held a work session to review housing production strategies to improve the city’s severely rent-burdened status.
The goal was to identify strategies the commission did not want to pursue, and to determine ones to consider for city code amendments.
Community Development Director Kelly Hart explained that adding the strategies did not necessarily mean that developers would implement them. Instead, he said, they gave developers more opportunities, or more “tools,” to possibly build more affordable housing.
The commission must review housing production strategies every eight years, giving staff a chance at every cycle to consider other strategies and determine what was working.

Cottage Cluster
One of the strategies was to promote cluster cottage housing. Existing code allows up to four 2,000-square-foot units on a 20,000 square-foot lot, and estimated the sale price for each of those homes at around $447,000. The proposed code would allow six or more 1,100 square-foot units with estimated sale prices at $269,000 per home.
Cottage clusters, or cluster housing, involve the development of smaller units built around a common green space (shared front yard) and shared parking space. Hart described it as a good option for people who want to own their own homes but not share walls with neighbors, as would be the case with townhomes.
Commissioner Tina Breshears called this a “phenomenal” option to incentivize developers.
“It is a great starter home for that single bachelor or female,” she said. “These appeal to the people that are in school, just starting a job. They don’t have animals, no yard to really have to maintain. It gives them a foot in the door to buy a home and to earn equity in it to be able to sell it and move into something larger.
These are perfect if they’re the starter home or the ending home for a senior. That’s perfect senior housing, which is something we do not have enough here of.”
Commissioner Marcellus Angellford said he wanted to see how likely developers would be to use this option before city staff invested time into creating the code, concerned that it would make little to no difference.
Smaller single-family detached housing: Another strategy was to change city code to allow smaller lot sizes, which would allow developers to build smaller single-family houses at more affordable prices.
The current code does not allow lot sizes smaller than 5,000 square feet. Hart’s PowerPoint presentation noted that high minimum lot sizes for single detached homes were partly to blame for developers building larger homes with larger price tags.
Notes in the presentation also indicated that if a developer purchased several acres of land for development, a minimum lot size of 2,500 square feet would allow for the construction of almost twice as many homes. The estimated sale price for each home could be reduced by about $145,000.
Angellford said he liked this option and wanted to see more such developments in the city.

Multifamily Housing Standards
The commission disqualified a strategy to allow four-story apartment complexes with reduced open space and parking space requirements. According to Hart, the current code allows three-story complexes but requires “robust” open-space standards and “high” parking-space standards that ultimately raise rents per unit.
“The concept is that by increasing the opportunity to build denser, then you are decreasing the price per unit and the rent,” she said.
Angellford was adamant against “changing our standards” on the city’s apartment requirements.
“We’re trusting the good-heartedness of the landowners, the developers, etc., to pass their significant savings on to each and every single tenant that they have, which you’ve got to have a lobotomy to believe that,” he said.
Breshears said that Lebanon wasn’t ready for four-story apartments, but she saw a lot of wasted space in the city’s parking requirements, citing the unused spaces at the Queen Anne complex as an example.

Incentive for Income-Restricted Units
Hart described the city’s current code to incentivize the development of low-income multi-family units as “awful,” and the commission agreed to consider “tweaking” it for multi-family housing density to encourage more available low-income housing.
The strategy would essentially be to allow developers to earn a 20% “density bonus” if they included affordable units for low- or extremely-low-income households.

Housing in Commercial Zones
Currently, residential units are allowed in commercial zones only on floors above commercial uses. Hart’s presentation noted that some of these spaces weren’t viable for business, yet housing was in demand. A strategy to consider was allowing more flexibility for commercial-zone housing.

Infill
Hart said the current code has a “matrix of considerations you have to do and evaluate” for infilling lots of one or fewer acres. This strategy would simplify the standards, to make it a smoother process for developers and city staff.

In other business:
♦ Hart shared an update on the commission’s Nov. 2022 denial of a Class 3 variance allowing four dwelling units to be accessed by one easement at 180 Hiatt St. The applicants did not appeal the decision but were able, she said, to redesign the lot without the need for the variance.
The subject property involved partitioned land with three parcels. The applicant asked for a variance to allow an easement accessing up to four dwelling units (two units on the first parcel and two units on the third).
After the variance was denied, the applicant returned with a new plan to place a parking lot on the first parcel, freeing up the easement to access just the two units on the third parcel. With this plan, city code requirements have been met.
The property’s neighbors spoke against the variance at the November meeting, citing the lot’s proposed density and increased traffic as main causes for concern.