Early in Wednesday’s Albany council meeting, a neighbor complained about people living on the lot where the city on Jan. 27 demolished a house declared to be dangerous because of code violations. And near the end there was another fruitless argument about the size of accessory dwelling units the city should allow.
Except that they almost book-ended the meeting, the complaint and the argument had nothing to do with each other.
As for 610 Sherman (the photo above is from Feb. 18), the city intends to foreclose on the property for unpaid liens but has not done so. It can’t fence the lot because it does not own it. But a case brought by the city would declare the lot to be a “specified crime property.” That is pending in circuit court, and if the city prevails, it can take steps to secure the property.
The ADU discussion came up because of the impasse between the mayor and four council members over the size of accessory dwelling units. The council has twice approved an ordinance to bring Albany’s development code in line with new requirements of state law. Both actions went beyond what the state requires by allowing ADUs up to 900 square feet if they meet setback requirements. And both were vetoed by Mayor Sharon Konopa, who insisted on keeping the current ADU maximum size of 750 square feet.
Because the vetoes left the code technically out of step with state law, the Portland land-use advocacy group 1000 Friends of Oregon last month threatened to petition the Land Conservation and Development Commission to find Albany in violation.
Wednesday’s question before the council was what to do about that. Community Development Director Jeff Blaine had spoken with someone at 1000 Friends and said they would accept the amendments the council had previously passed to fix defects in the city code, even without a 900-foot maximum size.
But the council majority and mayor could not agree on various size compromises offered by both sides. The argument became louder as the minutes inched by. Eventually the council voted 5-1 to do nothing about 1000 Friends. Councilor Bill Coburn voted no.
The city staff has been permitting ADUs according to state law, ignoring outdated code requirements for additional parking and owner-occupancy of one of the two units on a lot. So the lack of compliance with the state is only on paper.
If LCDC eventually sanctions Albany for non-compliant code language, Blaine said land-use related grants to the city might be in jeopardy and past grants might have to be paid back, but he didn’t have specifics.
Councilor Mike Sykes charged the mayor with being willing to take a financial risk with taxpayer money. But presumably that would apply to both sides in this dispute. (hh)