City seeks community input for housing code changes

The city held an open house in the Community Center on Oct. 22 to share information on recommendations made by the Development Code Audit Committee and gather input from the public.

More open houses are to follow and will present an opportunity for the community to weigh in on changes to the city’s housing code.

“They’re real informal,” said Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart. “It’s generally a one-on-one with city staff who are present.”

Attending staff at the Oct. 22 open house explained the process for code recommendations, the reasons for the change and took comments from the public.

Stewart felt public input was an important part of the process.

“We want to protect the values that people want in our community and we want to make sure the things we’re doing don’t negatively impact their lives or the quality of life in Cottage Grove,” he said.

The passage of House Bill 2001 this year required updates to city codes and comprehensive plans around Oregon. 

The bill is an effort to curb rising housing costs by increasing supply of smaller homes.

Among mandates was a stipulation that cities with at least 10,000 residents allow development of duplexes in lands zoned for single-family dwellings.

Cottage Grove has recently passed the 10,000-resident mark.

To comply with the legislation, the audit committee has adjusted the city’s code to allow duplex development on any lot where single-family homes are allowed. The city has previously al-lowed duplexes only on certain lot sizes in town, but the code change will effectively allow their development in any residential zone.

The code audit committee is also taking the opportunity to address housing needs in the community as detailed by the city’s 2018 Housing Needs Analysis. 

Policy recommendations from the analysis were adopted by the city in January.

The analysis reported a lack of housing across low-, middle- and high-income levels as the city’s vacancy hovers around 1 or 2 percent. 

The report recommended a growth rate of 69 units per year to help the city meet a goal of 1,379 more units by 2038.

The analysis also noted that the city would be able to achieve its housing goals without expanding its urban growth boundary.

In looking for solutions, the city considered if codes or costs were hindering development in Cottage Grove, a conversation out of which the Development Code Audit Committee was born. The committee has since been exploring the impacts of modifying development code to encourage a greater range of housing mix and housing density.

Along with code changes, the committee has recommended adding new definitions such as “cottage clusters,” groupings of no fewer than four detached housing units; “townhouses,” partly defined as a dwelling unit constructed in a row of two or more attached units; and “middle hous-ing,” a classification which includes duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhouses.

Stewart said that code changes will allow for the greater feasibility of cottage clusters by making criteria “clear and objective” while making the developments available for a full range of residential zones.

The potential for medium density developments in the community such as multi-family homes will also be opened up by making projects financially viable.

Planning staff have also done away with maximum density limits to units per acre, numbers which Stewart said could unintentionally promote unrealistic goals or concerns.

“It could potentially cause people to be concerned about something that isn’t even physically possible,” he said.

Additional open houses to discuss the changes are planned for November, though no dates are set in stone.

The audit committee’s final recommendations are expected to be presented at the Dec. 20 Planning Commission meeting, at which point more public comment may be submitted.

Stewart encouraged the public to attend the next open house, learn about the changes and feel free to comment.

“I think it’s important for people in the community to be involved in the way the community grows,” he said, “to share their thoughts and concerns and what their hopes and aspirations are for the community they live in.”

Public comments are not restricted to the open house events. Comments can be sent directly to Stewart at [email protected] or City Planner Amanda Ferguson at [email protected]


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