Oregon missing middle housing law disrupts new subdivisions

Clackamas County

Wilsonville Planning Commission considers options for altering code allowing higher-density housing

PMG file photo – The Frog Pond West neighborhood in Wilsonville, which is in the middle of development, will see significant zoning changes due to housing legislation.

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The Wilsonville Planning Commission recently was asked one of the most vexing and consequential questions the city faces regarding the implementation of recent housing legislation designed to foster more middle housing: What should be done about Frog Pond West?

The residential neighborhood along Boeckman Road and next to Advance Road was designed to almost exclusively include single-family homes, and that decision was based on animated community preference for less-dense housing. So far, between 75 and 100 homes have been built in the neighborhood with around 500 still to go, according to city Planning Manager Daniel Pauly.

However, to abide by landmark housing legislation requiring that middle housing, such as duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, be allowed in areas zoned for exclusive single-family use throughout much of the state, the city could decide to tweak some aspects, make more significant changes, or take a sledgehammer to the existing plan. At a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 14, planning commission members generally expressed a preference for the middle ground — but the Wilsonville City Council will have the final say.

No matter what, changes will have to be made to the Frog Pond West plan.

Even though existing neighborhoods aren’t required to allow middle housing on all lots (as will be the case for future neighborhoods), they do have to allow for eight units per acre rather than the current 6.7 in Frog Pond West, as well as duplexes on all lots in the neighborhood instead of some lots.

The first option presented at the commission meeting was to simply undertake those aforementioned steps. The second option was to allow duplexes on all lots and to increase the number of units allowable in various sub-districts of the neighborhood. The final and most dramatic option was to rezone the entire neighborhood to allow for middle housing.

Commissioners Jerry Greenfield, Kamran Mesbah, Aaron Woods, Jennifer Willard, Olive Gallagher and Breanne Tusinski all were partial to the second option, and the commission also preferred that the city allow the addition of middle housing as a part of this effort.

“I think it (option two) would keep the original intent of the neighborhood somewhat intact so people who already purchased their homes there … it would be a little bit more palatable than going with option three,” Tusinski said.

Greenfield mentioned the extensive public involvement during the Frog Pond West planning process and that, though he disagreed with the overall decision to plan the neighborhood for low density, the dramatic changes outlined in option three wouldn’t be ideal considering the previous process.

“If we should go so far as option three, it would throw that entire community discussion wide open,” he said.

On the other hand, Commissioner Ronald Heberlein felt that, along with the original master planning process, the city should consider its recent Equitable Housing Strategic Plan, which laid out a roadmap for fostering more affordable housing in town. He said allowing more middle housing could lead to housing affordability in the neighborhood.

“If the city is serious about equitable housing and serious about housing stock that can meet the needs of all the residents, then option three should be more seriously investigated,” he said.

Mesbah said he preferred option two but that option three could be realistic considering most of the neighborhood had yet to be built.

The commissioners generally felt that they should do more than simply meet the letter of the law when it came to fostering housing diversity, which ruled out option one.

Pauly said infrastructure could be a major consideration in terms of which path to go forward with, and the city would conduct an analysis to see whether current infrastructure could handle a significant increase in density from what was originally proposed. A traffic analysis also would be a part of that equation and open space standards could also be changed.

Planning Director Miranda Bateschell added that an infrastructure fee the city charges to developers could be tweaked in case more density is allowed.

“It (the third option) does maximize the opportunity for middle housing. It would require significant reanalysis of infrastructure systems. Theoretical density requirements could go up three times from what was planned in Frog Pond West,” said Joe Dillis with Angelo Planning Group, which the city hired to assist with efforts to comply with the legislation.

The city will conduct public outreach as part of the process of tweaking zoning codes.

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

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