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Planning Commission approves development analyses

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

For its Aug. 16 meeting, the planning commission held three public hearings as the final approval and adoption process for the Economic Opportunity Analysis, Housing Needs Analysis and Housing Production Strategy.

The EOA was put together through a local advisory committee and city leaders. It was concluded in the document that Lebanon has “more than enough” land for industrial and commercial growth, but is constrained by the large amount of wetlands in the area, Community Development Director Kelly Hart said. There is a “good mix” of land sizes to accommodate both small and larger enterprises that may want to locate here.

“We have unique opportunities to grow,” she said. “Specifically because of the hospital and Western University here, we have the ability to grow the job force related to those.”

The commission approved to amend chapter five in the city’s comprehensive plan to update the goals and policies, and incorporate the 2023 EOA. Lebanon’s comprehensive plan chapter five (Population Growth & Economy) was last updated in 2004.

The HNA (which was completed in 2019 but yet to be adopted) is an evaluation of the city’s available housing lands to accommodate population growth during the next 20 years. The report indicated there is enough land within the existing urban growth boundary for expected growth. Lebanon is projected to grow by 5,686 by 2043, which will require 2,503 new dwellng units. As much as 437 acres were identified as developable land for housing.

The commission approved to amend chapter six in the city’s comprehensive plan to update the goals and policies, and incorporate the 2019 HNA. Lebanon’s comprehensive plan chapter six (Housing) was last updated in 2004.

The HPS includes 19 strategies to support and promote needed housing for the expected growth. The strategies cover land use and zoning changes, development incentives, land based strategies and partnerships, and public projects and resources.

During discussion about the HPS, Commissioner Don Fountain asked about Action 1.6 in the document which refers to tiny homes on wheels as allowable permanent dwellings under certain conditions. Fountain said he did not remember any discussions about tiny homes and, personally, he does not like them.

Hart said tiny homes were briefly talked about during work sessions in January. She clarified that the city is required to complete the strategies in the document, but some of those strategies are, for example, to “evaluate” an action. In the case of tiny homes, the strategy is to “develop a regulatory framework that would allow tiny homes on wheels to be permanently occupied as dwellings under certain conditions.

This allows the city to define what this certain conditions would be.

“I’m not opposed to 1.6 as long as we’re gonna have input on how that would be implemented and what it would look like,” Fountain said.

Hart responded that the commission, as well as city council and the public, will continue to have opportunities to give input on any decisions.

At that point, the public hearing was opened for public testimony on the matter of the HPS. Regina Thompson approached the commission to share her thoughts. She said she liked the concept of accessory dwelling units (which would be one option for tiny homes to be considered).

“When we look at affordable housing, definitely from what I’m seeing Lebanon doesn’t have it anymore,” she said. “I like the inclusion of these options because I think they can be used to maybe have some lower cost for rent, but they’re not done with a large developer so we see more members of our community benefiting.”

The commission approved the HPS to be recommended for adoption by City Council.

At the conclusion of the items on the agenda, Hart shared the city has been seeing fewer applications for development recently.

“We went from at the beginning of this year having on average nine of them continuously being processed to, right now, we only have three,” she said.