A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Mayor may veto accessory housing

Written July 11th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The Oregon legislature wants more housing to be built on lots that already contain a home. But a 2017 law to allow that is causing consternation at Albany City Hall and may prompt a possible first-ever veto of a city ordinance by Mayor Sharon Konopa.

State lawmakers passed a bill to require cities above a certain size, including Albany, to allow “accessory dwelling units” to be added on any single-family residential lot, subject to reasonable restrictions on size.

For months, the city planning division labored on changes in its development code, which already allowed second dwellings but not on all residential lots as the legislature wants. The upshot was an incredibly lengthy and convoluted list of amendments.

On Wednesday the council voted 4-2 to adopt the changes, as recommended by the planning commission and discussed in joint work sessions with the council. Council members Dick Olsen and Bill Coburn voted no.

Konopa didn’t get to vote because there was no tie. But she had serious misgivings, and she said that for the first time in 10 years as mayor, she was considering vetoing an ordinance. If she does, the council could approve the measure anyway, but it takes five votes to do so.

The mayor says the changes could turn single-family neighborhoods into multi-family areas, and this wouldn’t be fair. She’s also worried that the ordinance would increase the size of allowed ADUs, possibly allowing for two bedrooms rather than one. More on-street parking also was a concern.

Councilor Ray Kopczynski doesn’t think it’s a big deal because he doesn’t believe most owners of single-family houses would be eager to add another family in the back yard. He expects no rush of applications for accessory units.

The mayor has three days to file written objections to the code amendments with the city clerk. If she does, the charter says the ordinance comes up again at the next meeting, when five votes will be needed to pass it into law.

There’s no word on what happens if the impasse persists and Albany ends up not complying with exactly what the legislature wants. (hh)



21 responses to “Mayor may veto accessory housing”

  1. Delfina Herrera Hoxie says:

    I recommend that Mayor Konopa veto the amendments. We have so much new housing being built already and our streets don’t need the additional traffic.

    • Jim Thomas says:

      The availability of affordable housing is only part of the issue here. I believe, more importantly, is the right of a property owner to use their property as they see fit. Government should butt out.

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    “””She’s also worried about the additional parking that would be needed but the amended ordinance doesn’t require.”””

    Once again, the imagined need to service the dying American Car Culture trumps every effort to allow people to solve real needs.

    Shabby neighborhoods look bad because of too many cars parked in too many driveways (think rental duplexes), not because of cars parked on the street. Most square-gridded Albany streets are already too wide for pedestrian-crossing comfort. Street-parked cars provide a feeling of safety for pedestrians by shielding them from traffic, and cause speeds to drop. Residential streets shouldn’t act like arterials.

    If none of this convinces you that you don’t need additional on-site parking, try this: based on neighborhood characteristics (such as narrow streets), require renters of accessory units in some areas to be car-free by contract. This fits well with a future when more people will use mobility-as-a-service instead of car ownership.

    I can imagine myself moving from Corvallis, taking advantage of Albany’s much greater ease of getting to the big, exciting cities by train or bus (with or without my bike). You would like me as a tenant, being more able to pay my rent reliably because I don’t have a car to support.

    • Doug Klinkebiel says:

      Better yet, since you love public transportation so much, why don’t you just move to Portland and get it over with? There’s even one day out of the year you can ride your bicycle nude.

      • HowlingCicada says:

        Good question. Portland is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there (smile if you’ve heard that one before). Same, to a lesser extent, for Eugene and Salem.

        Actually, I don’t “love [local] public transportation so much” for many of the same reasons other people don’t like local public transit, and much prefer to ride a bike or walk to keep myself happy and in good shape. The bus is there (especially in Corvallis) when I really need it. Maybe if I owned a car, I’d be unable to resist the temptation to use it all the time to get around, having payed so much to buy the darned thing, and so little to drive each mile.

        It’s all a matter a personal priorities. Obviously, Jim’s (below) are different from mine.

        • Doug Klinkebiel says:

          Ah, walking. Now you’re in my world. I am to walking what you and Hasso are to bike riding. I’m 59 years old and walk 5 miles a day after work in one hour. Been doing it for over 7 years. Helped me lose 105 pounds back when I started. Weekday mornings often find me going 7 1/2 in 90 minutes. I just put on the headphones and I’m in Heaven. My route takes me through N.Albany.

          But, I have to agree with Jim. Automobile = freedom, just like in the horse and buggy days. Only now we can get around faster.

    • Jim Thomas says:

      I get your point, but speaking for myself, I have zero interest in “mobility-as-a-service”. Today, as in years past, owning a car provides freedom. The freedom to go where I want, when I want and take with me who and what I want.

  3. J. Jacobson says:

    A Granny Shack outback is as American as apple pie. The Mayor ought tread lightly.

  4. RON says:

    what we need in albany is more HUD housing AFFORDABLE housing

  5. James Engel says:

    Wow, we have enough room on our lot for like 5 or 6 of these “accessory dwellings”! We anticipate the needed xtra income!! Do you suppose they have to be stick built or would a tent suffice?? We’d take in our Mayor’s concerns & require only bicycles be used. Hummm, now what to do for sanitary concerns. I think going to Home Depot & getting a number of “Homer Buckets” would do the trick & then at night dump them down the nearby manhole.

    My prose sounds as dumb as this whole issue is. For once I’ll back our Mayor’s concerns & her anticipated veto.

  6. Leroy says:

    Vote no, the liberals in corvallis will migrate bringing their artery choaking bicycle traffic, the legislature is just looking for more locations to hide trespassers.

  7. Sandi Foster says:

    It is part of “Stack and Pack”. A “Sustainability” mandate steming from the U.N. Agenda 21/30.

  8. Beaver211 says:

    People whine about all of the unafforable housing and the moment a great idea like being allowed to add a granny flat to your own property, people freak out!

    The mayor will be personally responsible for more unafforable housing and homelessness if she vetos this.

  9. Jim Thomas says:

    For me this is a timely opportunity to express my concern regarding this issue, and another housing related issue. First of all, in this matter as well as the second one I will address, the overriding issue for me is the right of a property owner to be able to use and enjoy their property free from obnoxious government interference. We like to tout the level of freedom we enjoy in this country, but I would argue that there are many places in the world that enjoy much more freedom than we do. In view of this discussion consider for a moment the myriad of codes, covenants, restrictions, ordinances and statutes that dictate what you may or may not do with your property. And even when a use is “allowed” there are undoubtedly countless hurdles to navigate before that use may actually be realized. The government, at all levels, needs to butt out. People should be entitled to truly use the property that they own. This brings me to my second issue. How many people know that in 2017 the Oregon legislature enacted ORS 94.625, Formation of homeowners association? This oppressive statute mandates that a developer will put an HOA in place, complete with bylaws that conform to the statute, prior to selling the first lot. Then, when the development is complete, the association is turned over to residents who must forevermore live under its oppressive rules, unless they choose to move. None of the residents had a say in the formation of this entity or in the bylaws that it has the legal authority to enforce. They are forced to participate, comply with its rules and pay dues for the privilege of having this obscenity forced on them. In government you have the ability to contact your elected representatives and express your displeasure with how they do their job. And through referendums people have the ability to change unjust laws by voting, with a majority of those who vote determining the outcome. With an HOA the “elected” board members can hide with relative anonymity behind a commercial property manager who they hire to do their dirty work. And, unlike in government, changing the rules requires not a majority of votes cast, but rather approval from a majority of members, most of whom fail to participate. This makes it nearly impossible to effect change, exactly as I’m sure it was intended. This requirement to implement HOAs made it possible for the government to place upon property owners a level of control that the government itself could never legally achieve. To me, this looks a whole lot like mandatory union membership which the SCOTUS just ruled was unconstitutional.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Thank you. Not being as much of a libertarian as I used to be, I don’t know what the solution is.

      As best as I’m aware, the result of HOAs and their rules is uniform, boring naighborhoods that look no different in Omaha or Kalamazoo than in Albany. They lack diversity of any kind. They present an illusion of safety. They assume that everyone comes in a 2.2 child nuclear family wanting a big house with enough driveways to park two oversize SUVs and attached garages to store a ton of unused stuff. House appearance is often phony-old-fashioned pastiche, or grandiose McMansion, by force. All in the hope that all this nonsense will maintain and increase property values, partially because we have been oversold on the notion of housing as an investment.

      The best-loved, most valuable parts of many cities are the older, “chaotic” areas where granny flats and lack of on-site parking aren’t problems.

  10. Russ Tripp says:

    Veto, this is not needed here as in Portland.

  11. Misty says:

    Good for the Mayor! However, this doesn’t stop the city from allowing people to split their lots and build a new house in what “was” their backyard, which is what our neighbors did. Now we live in a fish bowl with a 2-story wall of 3 sets of windows 3 feet from our fence line. That’s some “granny shack”.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Your situation is unfortunate. I’ve seen similar cases and complained about it here.

      But, don’t you think allowing appropriately sized and set-back little houses would help discourage the kind of problem you have? Would many people want to tear down a new, perfectly-nice, income-generating little house to build an intrusive monster like yours?

      We should concentrate on real issues of height, size, window location, etc. The Mayor is concerned about size; I somewhat agree, but it seems from comments above that most of the opposition is social/political, and not about size.

    • T.J. says:

      You may have this looked into. Code requirements are 6 feet from the property line.

  12. T.J. says:

    I’m not a fan of our mayor. I feel she is more concerned with the upper percent of the city. I personally feel she has overstayed her welcome, however getting the average working man/woman to vote is tough.

    Tents and buckets is a little far reaching and if you have spent any time around the poorer side of town you will see that’s already happening anyway.

    If someone wants to follow building and safety code then they should be free to do has they wish on the property they paid for the same as the next guy.

  13. Gothic Albany says:

    Read the ADH article, the Mayor is not against ADUs, but rather is concerned about size and impact from out of control ADU construction. Good for the Mayor fighting to keep Albany a livable community.


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