On March 22, I received a notice of public hearing from the city of Newport regarding proposed municipal code amendments to comply with a new state law that addresses housing and long-term rental shortages. House Bill 2001 applies to all cities, including those with a population of 10,000 to 25,000, such as Newport, and mandates the increase of housing density in all residential areas. The Newport Planning Commission prepared a draft document of amendments and now they are asking for public comment in advance of their April 12 planning commission meeting.
The changes proposed include allowing second homes, duplexes and "cottage clusters" (a grouping of at least four dwelling units) to be built on a standard lot wherever only one single-family dwelling was allowed before, and allowing an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for every dwelling, including duplexes. It drops parking requirements from two spaces "off-street" (such as in a garage or driveway), to just one space for duplexes, even in residential neighborhoods where any on-street parking would obstruct a lane of traffic.
In my opinion, "cottage clusters" should not be allowed in residential R-1 or R-2 zones. And the proposed amendments do not take into account the city's aging water and sewer systems that cannot handle double or triple the number of residents on a street. An updated water and sewer treatment availability study that directly addresses these potential additional units should be completed first. (The state law gives cities more latitude to consider issues such as sewer and water capacity when looking at added density.)
The table listing on page 3 of the draft states that short-term rentals are permitted in all residential zones “subject to requirements of Chapter 14.25.” This could be misleading because short-term rentals are currently prohibited in all residential areas except within the Vacation Rental Overlay Zone (see Municipal Code Chapter 14.25).
New housing should not be used as a vacation rental since the purpose of the new law is to create additional long-term housing options. However, it is the city's practice to encourage voluntary compliance for all municipal code regulations, and to waive fines and penalties for documented violations. Therefore, municipal code language must be absolutely clear. Making owner-occupancy a requirement for one of the dwellings could cut down potential violations.
I urge all city residents to review "Draft Zoning Ordinance Amendments Implementing HB 2001” online at https://tinyurl.com/rpb2ak38.
Despite the requirements for public involvement (Goal No. 1 of the State of Oregon's Land Use Planning Goals), the city has made it almost impossible for the public to participate in this upcoming hearing. I've included the link above because there is no mention of the file name or location in the notice of public hearing, nor is it available on the first page of the city's website under "Public Comment," nor on the planning department's webpage, or the planning commission meeting agenda page, and I couldn't find it using the search function on the city's website.
I contacted a Newport planning commissioner, who contacted Planning Director Derrick Tokos, who emailed the file to him and agreed to post it online. But I still could not find the file. Finally, by searching for "HB 2001," I found a link to the city's community development department page where the draft amendments were included at the bottom of the list called "Current Projects." The document should not have been this difficult to find.
The proposed amendments will change the dynamics of our neighborhoods and alter our town forever. I've already sent in my comments, and I encourage you to do so too. Read the draft and send your comments by noon on April 12 to Planning Department Director Derrick Tokos at: [email protected].
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. and can be watched live at: https://www.newportoregon.gov/citygov/comm/pc.asp. The meeting will also be broadcast live on Charter Channel 190. Tune in and listen to the discussion.
Carla Perry is a resident of Newport.