A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Appeal filed in ‘middle housing’ land division

Written May 28th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

This is Laura Vista Drive in the planned 80-lot Riverwood Crossing development south of Gibson Hill Road in North Albany as it looked on April 8, 2024.

Riverwood Crossing, the 22-lot subdivision in North Albany that grew into plans for an 80-lot “middle housing” development, has been held up at least temporarily.

The Albany planning division approved the switch in development plans on May 8. Two North Albany property owners, Audrey Eldridge and Brad Dennis, appealed the decision just before the 14-day appeal period ran out on May 22.

The city had approved the change to 80 townhouse lots under so-called “middle housing rules” the Oregon legislature adopted in 2021. The state rules determine how middle housing developments are to be handled by local land use authorities.

These rules say appeals from middle housing approvals are heard not by the city planning commission or council but by a referee.

This planned development calls for 80 townhouses to be built, each on its own lot, on 7.4 acres along a new section of Laura Vista Drive at 3118 Gibson Hill Road N.W.

The subdivision had originally been approved for 22 single-family houses, but another developer, Serge Serdsev of Salem, bought the property and made use of the new state rules to increase the number of units.

The appellants, Eldridge and Dennis, say in their appeal that there is a “lack of adequate infrastructure” in North Albany to support the proposed new land division. They cite their concerns about water service and the street system.

They paid a $300 filing fee. If they prevail they get the money back.

City Manager Peter Troedsson told the city council last week the city would appoint a referee, probably an attorney experienced in land use matters, to hear the appeal.

There’s no word yet on who will be the referee or on how this new style of handling land use appeals will play out. (hh)

The original story has been edited to fix the name of the subdivision. It’s Riverwood Crossing, not Ravenwood Crossing.

20 responses to “Appeal filed in ‘middle housing’ land division”

  1. MarK says:

    How in the world can you expect an honest, unbiased “referee” if the city council is allowed to make the appointment? Do the appellants have any say in the appointment? Kind of sounds like the fox guarding the henhouse.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Because you voted for the council Members.

      OH? You didn’t vote for the ones that won?

      Welcome to Democracy.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        I guess the easiest pickings would be to elect a Mayor that actually asks questions instead of sitting back on “cruise control” with a City Council that does exactly what he wants.

        • neb says:

          please remember that you have the right to vote your choice and the responsibility to accept that you don’t always get your way.

          • chris j says:

            When people vote they do not expect to “get” what they want. They expect the one who was voted in to do the job they where elected for and not promote their own agendas.

      • Jeff B. Senders says:

        No Bob. You’re on the inside looking out. Democracy is having a fair and impartial referee, not a kangaroo court. What are you afraid of?

      • thomas earl cordier says:

        perhaps Bob you did not read carefully. Article says the City manager will appoint-he is not elected.

  2. josh says:

    Good news, however the referee should be appointed by a non-biased 3rd party.

  3. thomas earl cordier says:

    I’m wondering if the City Manager’s choice can be appealed. Please recall the Initiative
    Petition process- required the City Attorney to write the ballot measure to be voted on.
    That process allowed a legal challenge to that proposed document. The Llinn County
    judge determined the proposed doc was biased and could not be used. So the judge wrote the doc himself which was approved by vote of the public to change City Charter.
    Yes I am suggesting City’s choice will be biased against the appellants

  4. Chris says:

    I feel sorry for the young couples these days wanting to buy a house. My first house was $70 000 in 1995 on Marion st. I was a student working partime min. wage and my wife worked full-time at $15hr and we could afford to buy a home at 9% interest which was great at the time. What’s happened?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      What’s happened?

      Nothing much has happened. The world’s economy still runs on supply and demand. Demand for housing in every desirable place has increased. Supply has not kept up with demand, especially after the 2005-2007 bubble disaster which caused the 2008 crash which caused the severe construction downturn more-or-less worldwide.

      Part of the shortage is the fault of liberals (my tribe) and their love of govt. restrictions, procedures, and appeals in the interest of environment, equity, etc.. That’s part of the reason housing is cheaper in Texas, though their increasingly horrible weather and natural-disaster frequency helps (yes, global warming).

      Part of the fault lies with existing homeowners who have nothing to gain and much to lose from the construction of ANY new housing ANYWHERE. Once again, supply and demand, affecting the value of their “investment.” There is always a plausible excuse: water, streets, traffic, parking, the bridges, schools, neighborhood character, “rural way of life,” etc, etc, etc. One thing has changed over many years: the shift of home ownership from “a place to live” to “an investment” adding to the incentive to obstruct. This seems the predominant attitude on this page.

      Of all the reasons to oppose growth, none are as intractable as the huge problems caused by car dependency: road capacity and maintenance, congestion, the noise and stink of cars, neighborhood degradation and isolation. These are caused by more cars, not by more people or more houses. The amount of valuable land consumed by private cars and the expense of providing the infrastructure for them is astronomical.

      The growth issue is a big chicken-and-egg problem. Without increased density there is little chance for either affordability* or alternatives to car dependency. But as long as car dominance continues to control development in much of the “rich” world, there will continue to be pushback against any kind of growth. This is the rotten mess America created 80 years ago.

      * To be clear, “affordability” literally means the ability of people like Chris to buy a house, and not some euphemism for socialist programs.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Hasso, correct me if I’m wrong, but appealing a city decision about middle housing is covered by ORS 197.375.


    Sounds kind of stupid to assume that the city will appoint an impartial referee, but it proves once again that the proverb “the law is an ass” is alive and well in Oregon.

    • neb says:

      so if they picked you as referee, could/would you be an impartial referee?
      its not that hard

  6. Sue says:

    A couple of questions, from the comments is there a water and infrastructure problem in NA? I know there is a traffic problem, but water is on a different level. Wouldn’t the city need to do or maybe they have that type of evaluation?

  7. Drew Thomas says:

    Have to wonder what Brad’s angle is on this. His property was the subject of a 10 home subdivision about a decade ago.

    • Brad says:

      Actually, my property has been zoned for 10 lots for more than 30 years. Someday my estate will sell the property and it will probably be developed. The infrastructure for North Albany was designed to support 10,000 sf lots.

  8. khw says:

    Good to have an evaluation of the water and road system in North Albany anyway as there’s will be future expansion and the water and other services should be able to scale.

  9. Richard S. says:

    And what about the traffic impact, or have we decided the current mess at the bridge is acceptable? APD has no handle on the traffic problems up here now.

    Unfortunately, I agree with many here…there will not be an unbiased referee! …When the city controls who gets picked, there is zero hope!

    After this nonsense, there needs to be a serious discussion about recalling those in City Council who have no spine, and throw the residents under the bus. Here’s looking at you, Mr. Mayor, and the NA reps on the council!

    • MarK says:

      Sure they have a handle on traffic up here. Their answer is to just back away and install cameras. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the camera surveillance.

  10. John Robinson says:

    Unfortunately people are letting their emotions overrule clear thought and logic. Let me spell it out for you. The City of Albany, City Manager, Mayor and City council are not responsible for any of this. Period. It was a mandate from the State of Oregon. If you are upset about it then that anger needs to be directed at the State of Oregon.

    In all of the legal language of the various regulation that the state imposed, the state wanted to ensure that cities could not impose regulations that would prohibit the development of middle housing. Understand that the states position is that by allowing middle housing on previously zoned single family land it will improve the current housing crisis and return choice and diversity to housing.

    The current appeal that was filed has “zero” chance of success. Use logical thinking here. The state of Oregon cannot allow any appeal in any city. No doubt the state already considered this when they crafted the language of the law. Any appeal that was successful in disallowing the middle housing to be built would be counterproductive to the intent of the law.

    Once you understand this it does not matter who is appointed as referee. The chess game started in 2021 and the state has you in checkmate. Sorry to be so blunt but you are wasting your time fighting this.


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