Housing-density

A proposed change to Newport’s city code, complying with state law, would treat duplexes the same as single-family dwellings in all residential zones. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

NEWPORT — In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that effectively eliminates single-family-only zoning in cities with more than 10,000 people. Newport City Council must adopt its own ordinance to implement the new law, with some optional components, or a model code developed by the state will automatically take effect.

Newport has until June 30 to pass an ordinance that treats duplexes the same as single-family dwellings in all residential zones. House Bill 2001 requires medium-sized cities such as Newport, with 10,000 to 25,000 residents, to implement this change, with the option of incorporating requirements for large cities, those with more than 25,000 people, such as allowing three- and four-plex dwellings on all residential lots and permitting cottage clusters (groups of at least four detached dwellings per acre with a footprint of 900 square feet or less each on a single lot with a common courtyard).

If the city does not adopt a compliant ordinance, on July 1 it must begin applying the minimum provisions under model code created by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

In previous sessions, the Newport Planning Commission elected not to develop language to implement the optional measures, except for the incorporation of design standards for cottage clusters in R-3 and R-4, which are multi-family dwelling zones, and townhouses in R-2, R-3 and R-4.

During the planning commission’s regular meeting on April 12, Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said those optional additions would not affect density, only the design and layout of developments.

The planning commission also

previously developed language, optional under state law, that would have created an “on-street parking credit,” allowing developers to count street spaces toward required off-street parking. But by the end of the April 12 hearing, commissioners decided not to recommend that language to city council.

Under state law, cities cannot implement an off-street parking requirement for accessory dwelling units, and they can only require two off-street spaces for both single-family dwellings and duplexes (one space per unit for the latter).

Tokos told commissioners they had options in terms of pairing duplexes with accessory dwelling units — small attached or detached dwellings for long-term occupancy that are already allowed in all residential zones — and could recommend language that would allow up to three dwellings per lot in R-1 and R-2 zones. Commissioners decided to recommend limiting it to two dwellings — a duplex, or a single-family dwelling with an accessory unit.

The hearing generated substantial public commentary in the Opinion section of the News-Times and in written submissions to the commission.

Some of those comments welcomed the move’s potential to create additional workforce housing options and potentially decrease housing costs. A letter from Lucinda Taylor, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County, urged the commission to go further than the minimum required by law.

“Because land value is one of the greatest costs in building homes for our neighbors, finding creative ways to share those costs allows Habitat for Humanity and other organizations working to increase the affordable housing inventory to have greater impact and create a stronger Lincoln County,” Taylor wrote.

Taylor cited the 2019 Lincoln County Housing Action Plan, which found that 46 percent of local households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, federally classified as being rent burdened. Twenty-two percent spend more than half their income on housing, which is classified as extremely rent burdened.

“At the same time, over 60 percent of the homes in Newport are the most-expensive housing type — single-family homes,” Taylor wrote. “Increasing the supply of duplexes and cottage clusters would allow more residents to find homes that meet their needs.”

Others commenters expressed concern that the added density would strain infrastructure and create a hazard on the roadways during an evacuation for a natural disaster.

George Dwyer, a resident of Pacific Homes Beach Club, a senior housing community off of Northeast 31st Street in Newport, formed the Agate Beach Safety Coalition to oppose increased housing density in the city. He said he was prompted by the development of Wyndhaven Ridge, a three-phase apartment complex on Northeast Harney Street east of Pacific Homes Beach Club, whose first phase is currently nearing completion.

Dwyer said almost 700 people currently live in three communities in his neighborhood, including Little Creek Apartments and Lakewood Drive, who all share just two accesses to Highway 101, and timely evacuation during an emergency, such as a Cascadia event or wildfire, is already untenable.

The new ordinance would not apply to the development of the Wyndhaven Ridge apartments one way or another, which is expected to eventually house hundreds of residents, as that project is already approved and in a multi-family zone, but concerns about evacuation could be raised about much of Newport, with its single escape routes east, north and south.

Following the April 12 hearing, Dwyer sent a letter to Rep. David Gomberg and Sen. Dick Anderson, the county’s state legislators, asking them to work to amend the law “to have exempt conditions that take into account evacuation restrictions.”

Dwyer acknowledged that finding housing in Newport can be difficult, but he thinks the area has reached its capacity. “I wouldn’t say we have enough housing, I’d say we have what we can fit, and to go any beyond that is not a good idea. It’s endangering lives, and it’s going to destroy Newport’s small-town atmosphere,” he told the News-Times.

Tokos told commissioners during the April 12 hearing that he does not expect the impact of the new ordinance to be drastic. “If you look at our historic development patterns, this is a very modest change,” Tokos said. “We see, in terms of duplex construction, fewer than five units per year.” He said the pace was similar for accessory dwelling units.

In terms of infrastructure such as water and sewer, Tokos said the city still had the option of not permitting specific developments if they would overtax public services, unless the developer is willing to pay for upgrades.

The community development director noted that none of the changes would impact the regulation of short-term rentals in Newport.

Newport City Council will hold a public hearing on the matter during its regular meeting May 17.

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