A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Middle housing appeal: It’s moving fast

Written June 6th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Here’s one street corner in Riverwood Crossing, the proposed 80-townhouse development. In the background, the traditional subdivision along N.W. Thorn and Jordan Drives.

The North Albany property owners who appealed the city’s approval of an 80-lot townhouse development off Gibson Hill Road won’t have long to wait to be heard.

As required by state rules for handling applications for so-called middle housing land divisions, Albany officials appointed a referee to hear the appeal.

The referee is Catherine Pratt, an attorney in the downtown law office of Ivers & Miller. Pratt got her law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in 2020. For nearly two and half years from 2021 to ’23, she worked for a Corvallis law firm and served as assistant city attorney for Corvallis, Harrisburg and Philomath.

Pratt scheduled the appeal hearing for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11, in the council chambers at Albany City Hall. She had originally set it for June 13 but then moved it forward to accommodate one of the appellants, who had a scheduling conflict.

Audrey Eldridge and Brad Dennis appealed the city’s May 8 approval of the 80-lot middle housing land division for Riverwood Crossing, which had originally been platted and approved for 22 conventional subdivision lots along a new section of Laura Vista Drive south of Gibson Hill Road.

The appellants summarized their reason as “lack of sufficient critical infrastructure.” They are concerned about the capacity of the water system. They also cite “potential traffic and safety issues that will result from an additional (up to) 160 cars trying to exit from one road onto the very busy Gibson Hill Road.”

None of that may matter, however.

In an email to the parties, Pratt cited a state statute that strictly limits the issues in a middle-housing appeal.

The appeal, the referee wrote, must be decided “based solely on allegations” that land use regulations were violated, or that the decision was unconstitutional, or that the land division was not eligible to be reviewed as a middle housing case, or that the parties’ rights were prejudiced by an error of the local government.

At the hearing, Pratt wrote, she will take oral statements from the appellants, the city, and various others who had submitted written comments.

She will accept written statements of no more than 500 words from others in lieu of oral statements. The written material must be submitted to Albany Planning Manager David Martineau before noon on June 13.

Pratt wrote she would rule on the appeal “no later than 11:59 p.m. on July 3.”

This is the first middle housing land division that has come up in Albany. It’s also the first appeal hearing by a referee.

The legislature meant for middle housing projects to be approved quickly and not get bogged down by Oregon’s byzantine land-use system. In comparison to regular land-use cases, this is taking hardly any time at all. (hh)

22 responses to “Middle housing appeal: It’s moving fast”

  1. david pulver says:

    original plan 22 lots. after progress has been made, change it to 80?? and i am to believe this was not thought of and part of the plan from the very beginning? when approved for 22?? you gotta be joking!! …give me a break!

  2. Richard Vannice says:

    It figures. Our legislature is cramming this down the throats of the citizens. No one has answered the question, “What is the cost for one of these going to be to the buyer?” Are they going to be “affordable”?

    • Abe Cee says:

      The term “affordable” seems to get thrown around a lot to mean “cheap enough” for everyone (secret decoder translation – lower income earners) to afford to buy which is a fallacy. If the homes are selling, then they must be “affordable” to someone. The idea that a minimum wage derived income or two should allow for homeownership is a dream with no chance at fulfillment.

      • Bruh says:

        This is probably the most ignorant thing I’ve read today. I make 32 an hour, wife makes 27. We cannot afford a house. I don’t have any debt, I cook from scratch, I save all I can. Homes are being bought by private equity firms and people who already have established equity. The rate at which first time home buyers, whether making 15 or 40 an hour, is dropping and dropping and dropping. You simply have no idea what you’re talking about. Why would you go online and make yourself look this ignorant?

        • Abe Cee says:

          If you can’t afford to buy a house with nearly $60 an hour of income you have other issues. Lower your expectations as there are many houses that you should be able to afford with that income.

          • Sonamata says:

            There are many first time homebuyers with similarly high incomes who are effectively locked out of the market. When interest rates were low, starter home inventory was snapped up, usually by landlords and downsizers making all-cash offers. Most first time buyers couldn’t compete.

            Interest rates are higher now, buying power has decreased, but prices have not. A $2900 mortgage bought a $700K home at 2.5%. It buys $435K now. Year-over-year prices are up 8.6% in Albany compared to last year. So, limited inventory becomes even more restricted by decreased buying power.

            Further, rental properties have much longer turnaround times than owner-occupied homes. Combined with owners hanging on to their low-interest mortgages, inventory will continue to be restricted.

            The City doesn’t seem terribly concerned about addressing its below-average (state and national) homeownership rate. When you’re locked out of the market with no end in sight, it’s frustrating to see a city councilperson blowing kisses on here to a landlord who has benefited numerous times from CARA (and a large forgiven PPP loan). There is no such help for people hoping to put down roots and build community here.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Your local govt. is the last entity to want affordable housing. They get a hell of a lot more tax money from expensive properties. Is it that hard to figure out?

    • Sonamata says:

      I’d be shocked if they’re offered for sale. It’s clear Albany is “solving” the housing problem by expanding a few select landlords’ portfolios. Increasing home ownership is not a goal.

  3. Al Nyman says:

    As the city of Albany obviously leans Democratic. you get what you vote for and in this case, you get legalise written by the Democrats so there is no chance to overturn the decision.

    • Coffee says:

      The city of Albany and Linn County leans ultra conservative and has since FDR died!!

      • Al Nyman says:

        You are wrong-the city of Albany leans democrat and the rest of Linn County is hifhly Republican.

        • Coffee says:

          If you have worked on the elections, you would know that Albany has more Democrats than it did (except when FDR was President and Albany was for Democrats) and more unaffiliated voters, but Albany still today votes “red.”

    • A.F. says:

      lol you must not be from around here

  4. Joanna S says:

    Many thanks for this info. My concern is traffic but it does not look like the state statute addresses that issue.

  5. Hpeg13 says:

    Keep making stupid decisions that will end in stupid results…..if our leaders can’t assure their citizens can live a good life in their town there are 2 choices leave, or VOTE THESE ASSHATS OUT! DON’T CALIFORNICATE OREGON!!!!

  6. Judith Draper says:

    Neanderthal land use laws? Where are the legislative, committee heavy, law makers whose job it is to hone these laws to what the public directs them to do. Quick bucks to be made. Won’t be around when the problems like water usage, traffic density, etc. must be faced by the residents of the area. Middle income housing what a joke.

  7. Drew says:

    This shouldn’t be an issue in the first place. Anybody fighting against townhomes today is living in the 1970s. I hope the legislature ends these kinds of nuisance appeals.

    Townhome developments:

    Consume fewer cities services per tax paid to the city for the same amount of square footage (water, sewer, electricity, roads, even emergency services who have to travel shorter distances).

    Cause less traffic per resident, because they aren’t as spread out, leading to fewer trips.

    Are better for resident’s health, when built close to services such as schools and parks, and away from polluting arterial roads and other noxious uses.

    Are more affordable per square foot of liveable space for comparable units built at the same time in the same area (they spread the cost of land across multiple units, netting similar margins to the developer and better prices for buyers).

    Can be built faster and at-scale to soak up more excess demand on fewer acres, slowing shelter price inflation in our towns and cities (this has been proven in studies from New York to New Zealand). Because the effect of adding supply effects the entire market, it’s also been measured to be healthier for the entire housing market to allow these units to be built at-market by whoever wants to build them, rather than trying to limit them to “affordable” units, such as has been tried in Portland with damaging measures such as “Inclusionary Zoning.”

    • Richard Vannice says:

      wait a minute “consume less city services”? Consider this – Townhouse with two families, say 4 people are going to use “less City Services?” If my old fashioned math is correct twice the people equals twice the usage.
      At the rate of two vehicles per house the increase from 22 lots (44 vehicles) to 80 lots (160 vehicles) is going to create congestion, more pollution, short tempers and frustration when only one way in and one way out is provided.

  8. Dala Rouse says:

    Maybe they need to take it to “court” and show that the State didn’t have the right to change the law to allow middle housing above a duplex on single family zones not just a hearing officer.

    • Brad says:

      The way the state wrote the laws, appellants are at risk of being assessed legal fees if they lose a court case. This pretty much insures there won’t be any court appeals beyond the first step.

  9. chris j says:

    It doesn’t matter whether people are democrat or republican. People who have power and money “cannibalize” (it is the exact term they use when consuming and displacing sectors of society) regular people to gain more power and wealth. They just fight over who has the right to consume us. Anymore they try to get along with each other to divide the spoils of their combined efforts. The homeless crisis laws have chummed the water and caused a feeding frenzy among the sharks. The city of Albany and Linn county have divided us all up into consumable portions. The only thing they fight about now is whether to use a knife and fork or just use their hands. The only people who have rights is anyone who can pay for them.

    • Coffee says:

      “The only people who have rights anymore are anyone who can pay for them.” Thanks for expressing that


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