A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Imagine three hundred houses here instead

Written May 1st, 2024 by Hasso Hering

A footpath leads into the East Thornton Lake Natural Area from North Albany Road.

Albany’s East Thornton Lake Natural Area looks particularly pastoral this spring. The area remains open, with flowers and trees instead of houses and streets, because of the foresight of four city council members in 2010.

A bike ride last week took me past the area, subject of a long-running land-use controversy that began shortly after a developer bought the 27-acre farm in 2004.

The first subdivision plan for the acreage called for 98 single-family lots. Strong opposition from neighbors stalled the plan, but in 2007 the city approved a subdivision for 78 homes. The  neighbors  appealed to the state land use board, which sent the case back to the city.

Then came the financial crisis of 2009 that stopped development there and everywhere else. Eventually the developer was open to selling the land to the city.

On Aug. 11, 2010, the city council voted 4-2 to buy the property for $2,250,000. The plan was to set it aside as open space for possible use as a future park. The council members supporting this were Jeff Christman, Floyd Collins, Dick Olsen and Bill Coburn.

Now, under Oregon’s new state-imposed development standards, there is no more single-family zoning. Instead the goal is “middle housing,” allowing up to four units on standard residential lots.

Conceivably, the area south of East Thornton Lake now might be eligible for around 300 residences, with an average of two drivers each.

This would be in addition to all the other development that has taken place in North Albany, plus pending projects including one for 80 homes on lots previously approved for 22.

Instead of a source of more congestion and traffic, on East Thornton Lake we have open space, a handy path maintained by volunteers, some rare apple trees, and all those yellow blossoms this spring. (hh)

The small parking space at the natural area is reserved for “service vehicles.” My bike was there for only a minute or two.

28 responses to “Imagine three hundred houses here instead”

  1. Coffee says:

    Thanks for that blog, Hasso.

  2. Pat Headrick says:

    I ride my bike through there every day. It would be a shame don’t make North Albany into that.

  3. Delfina Herrera Hoxie says:

    What a shame! Beautiful No. Albany will be a mess of cars, homes and noise pollution!

  4. Lexis kirkendall says:

    This is a Federal requirement that states need to follow. It has been in place for at least 4 years. Please explain this in your posts.

    Thank you

  5. Bessie Johnson says:

    Yes, I was one of the Councilors who voted no. Overpaid for the property, no taxes being generated. Sure hope the turtles are enjoying their $2+ million park

    • Jimmy says:

      And another reason why you’re not any longer on the city council. You failed to represent your ward on a number of occasions including the debacle called Somerset. You allowed the residents of East Albany to suffer through 2 to 300 double loads of dump truck Rock everyday for 3 years as the somerset development was built off Trinity. You ignored any appeals for help did not interact with residents of ward 3 and skipped the development meetings. We to every meeting and the Planning Commission originally shot down your plan and sent it back your original 240 houses was reduced to 125 slammed into very small Lots.

    • Jayeson Vance says:

      Open space is one of the greatest benefits of living here. Noise, congestion and traffic are worth millions to prevent. Just my opinion, thanks for your service.

  6. Craig says:

    How is “middle housing” or 4 houses on one lot defined? What is the floor plan of such a “house”? How is it different than a set of apartments? Where can we get this info?

    Thanks for the blog

    • Brad says:

      A group of N. Albany residents have formed a group on Facebook called “Albany Oregon Middle Housing”. In the files section of that group, we placed a copy of HB2001 from 2019. Here is an excerpt. “Middle housing” means:
      (A) Duplexes;
      (B) Triplexes;
      (C) Quadplexes;
      (D) Cottage clusters; and
      (E) Townhouses.
      (c) “Townhouses” means a dwelling unit constructed in a row of two or more attached units, where each dwelling unit is located on an individual lot or parcel and shares at least one common wall with an adjacent unit.

  7. Floyd Collins says:

    One of the reasons to buy it from the developer was the potential traffic impacts to North Albany Road and to the existing houses to the east that exit on SpringHill. It was bad enough with potential single family lots. Now even worse with potential Middle Housing. In this case the City should be in control since they own and don’t have to sell it. Continue to seek grants for open space and aquatic protection.

  8. Michelle J. says:

    Leave it alone. It’s beautiful. Leave the natural beauty alone ☺️. Too much beautiful land is being built on and it will all be gone before you know it. How .

  9. Jay says:

    We are a sanctuary state, and have millions of people storming into our country illegally. Oregon is a great place to run to. And have you noticed how many people are moving here from California ? I love living out of town but I wonder more every year how long til it will no longer be farm land. Good luck keeping that land beautiful.

    • Josh F Mason says:

      @Jay FYI, you’ve got many of your facts wrong.

      Contrary to your the state is being overrun by Californians, in reality Oregon’s population has in fact decreased for the last 3 years in a row. In 2023, the population dropped by 6,021. It went down by 6,000 people in 2022. In 2021, down by 23,000. However, in the previous two decades when our state’s population was increasing year after year, Californians accounted for 30-40% of Oregon’s population growth over time, a significant share.

      While the current immigrant situation is controversial to some more than others and further complicated by many disparate factors including misinformation, prejudice and white nationalism, this country throughout it’s entire history has always benefited overall from immigration.

      Research shows that illegal immigrants increase the size of the U.S. economy, contribute to economic growth, enhance the welfare of natives, contribute more in tax revenue than they collect, reduce American firms’ incentives to offshore jobs and import foreign-produced goods, and benefit consumers by reducing the prices of goods and services. Economists estimate that legalization of the illegal immigrant population would increase the immigrants’ earnings and consumption considerably, and increase U.S. gross domestic product. There is scholarly consensus that illegal immigrants commit less crime than natives. Sanctuary cities—which adopt policies designed to avoid prosecuting people solely for being in the country illegally—have no statistically meaningful impact on crime. Research suggests that immigration enforcement has no impact on crime rates.

    • Jimmy says:

      Oh good grief let’s make immigrants the cause of everything. As I look out my bedroom window and watch migrants planting, moving irrigation, picking up rocks, bucking bales, string hops, cleaning toilets and doing all the other work that good “American” kids won’t do. But sure those darn immigrants are taking our jobs. But not to worry strawberry season will be here soon I’m sure you’ll be out there picking correct? LMAO

      • Michelle says:

        I wholeheartedly agree with you.I know I know people in the US are lining up to do the jobs that the immigrants are doing but hopefully, they will take one for the team and let the illegal immigrants do it instead.

  10. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Gee, just imagine all the speed and red light cameras the city could buy with the many millions of revenue this “pastoral” property would bring if sold.

    Not to mention the millions in additional revenue the city would harvest in tickets.

    And the many millions of property tax revenue the city would reap with all the “middle housing” that would be built.

    This is the closest thing to the city printing its own money. The temptation must be huge….

  11. chris j says:

    Hazelwood park was city park land too. When will people realize when it comes to money, nothing is safe. History has always put a positive spin on the negative progress
    that is forced upon people. Hostile takeovers do not create a positive city. The cart before the horse is the way the city is ran. They keep making more problems before they fix the ones they have already created out of poor planning. All these get rich quick schemes they feel will make up for their past bad decisions always back fire. Hope Albany’s citizens catch on to these attempts and survive the city’s continued blunders.

  12. DeeDee Biegel says:

    If all these development projects come to fruition, is there a way to make more main roads to Hwy 20 from North Albany, and another bridge from North Albany to another part of Albany somewhere to alleviate all the traffic on the one set of bridges that can’t even accommodate all the work traffic now?

  13. LarryT says:

    The state mandated middle housing concept is just creating future ghettos. And higher crime rates.

    • Josh Mason says:

      Stop with the propaganda. Oregon’s middle housing mandate was adopted in 2021 and not implemented until 2002, two years ago. Are you telling us Albany’s crime rate has worsened since then and should be attributed to House Bill 2001? Please provide substantiated evidence. With regards to ghettos, Albany has had a few ghettos for decades with little change which have no connection to the recent House Bill 2001. Just because you personally have issue with House Bill 2001 doesn’t mean you can blatantly post lies and blame it for issues completely unrelated.

      Single family housing may have worked better in the 20th century, but today it’s no longer sustainable for cities and land use as the only type housing.


  14. Josh Mason says:

    Correction: Oregon’s middle housing mandate was adopted in 2021 and not implemented until 2022.

  15. Bob W. says:

    I surely hope the city has enough brains running it, that they realize that we need this
    park in place ,and don`t need or have roads to put that many houses ,plus at least two
    cars per house extra. This is not rocket science. We have enough trouble trying to
    get into town now.
    I walk this path that I have worked on through there , and see deer , fox, and other animals that also use it. Please think long and hard , before turning this this area into
    somthing that we don`t need more of !


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