An Oregon City planning commission proposal to discourage a variety of housing types and efficient land use was turned down by the Oregon City Commission meeting in a 4 to 1 vote. HBA worked directly with staff and city councilors and publicly testified at the meeting to ensure the existing lot size averaging codes were preserved and will continue to encourage growth.
Like many cities across our region, Oregon City implements a system of lot size averaging in order to meet minimum density standards, efficiently use available land inside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), and ease the planning and design process for staff and applicants. Currently, their code requires that proposed subdivisions (land divisions involving four or more lots) have an average lot size that is at or over the zoning designation. For example, in the R-8 Single Family Dwelling zone the minimum stand-alone lot size is 8,000 square feet; and the average lot size across a subdivision is required to be at or greater than 8,000 square feet. Lots within a subdivision are permitted to vary from this size by as much as 20% less than the minimum, with no limit to the maximum size.
The planning commission recommended a change that would have only allowed lots to vary no more than 10% less than the minimum and that no more than 25% of the total lots could be less than the minimum. This proposal to change the existing code stemmed from concerns about the development of a piece of land constrained by its topography and a power line utility easement. Using the lot size averaging rules in place, the developer was able to maximize the R-8 zoned potential from the subdivision by having lot sizes down to 6,400 sq. ft. Neighbors of the development were surprised by the smaller size of the homes being planned, as the surrounding lots ranged from 12,000 to 14,000 square feet. They turned to the local planning commission to air their distaste, leading to a recommendation by the commission to restrict the ability of land owners to use the lot size averaging code.
In a 4 to 1 vote the City Commission turned down the proposal, with Commissioner Frank O’Donnell casting the only vote in favor of the measure. This preserves flexibility by developers to achieve the desired zoning of property despite physical or other constraints.
One favorable portion of the recommended code was adopted. This particular part removes any area within a powerline easement from a net developable area.
Oregon City’s decision to preserve a growth positive lot size averaging code and update the power line easement policy reflects another win for HBA’s efforts and priorities.