The Corvallis City Council dove into the housing issue at its meeting Monday night at the downtown fire station.
And just like wading into Willamette River a few blocks east of the meeting room, there were times in which folks got stuck in the muck or the current was too swift.
When the mist cleared, councilors had heard more than 70 minutes of public testimony on housing, with most of the heat generated by the issue of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Making it easier to build ADUs, commonly known as in-law units, has been one of the housing tools the city has been looking at for more than two-and-a-half years, via a task force and an advisory board.
Councilors acted on three motions on the ADU issue. First, they voted 7-1 to continue to require that the property owner live in one of the units. This vote ran counter to the recommendations of the advisory board. On two other motions, a 5-3 vote to allow more than one ADU on a lot and 6-2 vote to no longer require the ADU to match the architectural style of the primary house councilors backed advisory board recommendations for further investigation.
Ward 2 Councilor Roen Hogg and Ward 5’s Charlyn Ellis led the charge against the ADUs, providing four of the five “no” votes on the second and third motions. Both expressed concerns about whether ADUs would add to the livability issues in near-campus neighborhoods. And both indicated that the current code is working fine.
However, Kara Brausen, chair of the advisory board, noted that in the past year just four ADUs had been constructed.
Some misinformation also was found floating in the debris. ADUs, according to the city’s planning staff, can be a maximum of 900 square feet. Which makes adding two five-bedroom units to a backyard, as one councilor suggested, a bit fanciful.
Councilors also passed ADU recommendations that call for further review of how the system development charges (SDCs) levied on developers for the cost of required public infrastructure might be waived or deferred in an effort to build more ADUs.
Left for further down the river is a larger discussion on SDCs and how they might be used to give a boost to the city’s affordable housing stock.
Nine of the 13 individuals who testified during the meeting’s community comments period addressed the ADUs issue. Seven of those testifying, mainly representatives of city neighborhood associations, opposed the ADU changes. Two members of the League of Women Voters spoke in favor of the proposal.
In other action, councilors:
• Unanimously passed an order that removes a planned development overlay from land in the Timberhill area, which has been the subject of numerous land-use cases and appeals since 2014. Removal of the planned development overlay will make it easier for developers to build on their 200-plus acres north of the Kings-Walnut interchange, although it seems likely that there will be further appeals in the case. Also to be resolved is a petition from the developers, GPA 1 and Forest Heights, for attorney fees and other costs of more than $107,000.
• Unanimously passed formal findings in their rejection of an appeal by two neighborhood groups of Ponderosa Ridge, a proposed 274-lot subdivision in northwest Corvallis. The approval of the formal findings starts the clock on the 21 days neighbors have to appeal the decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.
Other actions items were pending as the council session entered its fifth hour.