A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

N. Albany project switches to 80 townhouses

Written April 8th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Eighty mailboxes are ready for customers at this planned “middle housing” subdivision in North Albany.

A North Albany subdivision originally approved for 22 single-family homes has been built to accommodate 80 townhouses instead.

The Albany Community Development Department published a public notice on April 2 that it had received an application for a “middle housing land division” to split 22 “parent lots” into 80 “child lots for future townhouse construction.”

The subdivision being planned by Pacific National Development of Salem covers 7.4 acres at 3118 Gibson Hill Road N.W., on the south side of Gibson Hill at Laura Vista Drive.

The city says it notified property owners within 100 feet and gave them until April 16 to submit written comments. But the decision to allow this four-fold increase in the density of the “Riverwood Crossing” subdivision evidently has already been made.

On a bike ride Tuesday up and down the completed subdivision street south of a massive rainwater retention pond, I counted 65 new water meters. The other 15 were either covered or not yet installed.

The lots shown on a drawing included with the city’s notice are between 20 and 30 feet wide and not quite 110 feet deep, averaging about 2,500 square feet each.

City zoning for the property is RS-10, which the development code says requires a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet and “is intended primarily for a lower-density residential environment.”

But the 2019 Oregon legislature made such local zoning provisions irrelevant by requiring cities to allow so-called “middle housing” on any residential lot.

Albany approved the original Riverwood Crossing plat, with 22 home sites, in November 2023. The city’s online data base says it received the 80-lot change request last month, on March 5. But by that time, the underground utilities for 80 narrow lots had already been installed.

On Tuesday I noticed that a community mailbox cluster of 80 boxes also has been installed.

The city development code, amended in line with the 2001 law change, says middle housing land divisions have to be approved if certain criteria are met. Among other things applicants must submit approved building permits to show that proposed structures comply with relevant rules.

If building permits for the Riverwood Crossing townhouses have been filed, the city’s online list of permits does not show them as either pending or approved.

(The morning after posting this story, I learned that last November, the Albany community development director, building official and city attorney signed an interpretation saying that the requirement of approved building permits does not apply when land divisions involve vacant land, as in this case.)

This project represents a huge departure from the low-density pattern of development elsewhere in this still partly agricultural neighborhood of North Albany. But that’s what the governor and the majority in the Oregon legislature said they want. (hh)

The story has been edited (twice!) to fix the year the legislature abolished single-family zoning, and to add the interpretation by city officials of what’s required for a middle housing land division like this.

The city’s notice included this drawing of the 80-lot townhouse subdivision.


The sign suggests this development won’t be the end of converting fields and woods to subdivisions.


Narrow townhouse lots line this new section of Laura Vista Drive south of Gibson Hill.


There’s a big storm water retention pond between the subdivision and Gibson Hill.

72 responses to “N. Albany project switches to 80 townhouses”

  1. Kristin Roisen says:

    Another bridge to North Albany will need to be built it is already has traffic jams .

  2. Jim Carver says:

    When North Albany was annexed, the city promised that NA would remain rural and not be built up with high density housing. Gibson Hill is already at maximum traffic volumes. This will make it much worse.

    • Lynn M says:

      As my husband likes to say “One swipe of the pen.”

    • M. M. Scott says:

      Yet we’re still forced to pay (property taxes) for their decisions & still be ignored!?

    • Dala Rouse says:

      You can ask our Governor that because she pushed the change in law through. Single family is no more even if it says single family. If the house next to you burns down they can build a four plex etc. if there is room. The city didn’t have a say when the state government changed the law. Look at how you state rep. voted. If you don’t like it.

  3. TLH-ALB1 says:

    Check your local leaders bank accounts. This cannot just be a little oversight. A call for quarterly audits of city department(s) is much needed. Money drains from the coffers, as fast as water drains through all the streets potholes.

    • Dala Rouse says:

      It is not local leaders as their hands are tied but look at our state so called leaders. If you don’t like what is happening vote for someone else.

      • Dan W says:

        Vote for someone else? Is that supposed to be a joke? Democrats have carved out their spots to ensure they will have a majority in EVERY election. Even the Governor’s position is rigged to ensure a fixed turnover.

        Recall the Governor, get required signatures, and the State Legislature changes the rules.

        There’s zero true representation of the people.

        • bill says:

          maybe dems get their way because there are lots more dems than repugs its really that simple

  4. Richard S. says:

    …and the City ignores prior promises again! Time for changes at City Hall!
    No more building in NA, period!!!

  5. Dan Wehrman says:

    It’s a shame that people in Salem, primarily from the Portland area, can legislate how we will live here in North Albany. This will make commuting into downtown Albany a much greater nightmare than it already is during most times of the day. NA does not have the infrastructure for this foolishness.

  6. Bob Smith says:

    Bait switch..

  7. Bill Kapaun says:

    80 sets vs 22 sets of City TAXES, Fees, storm water charges and not even God or Ray know how many other hidden charges are collected. Greed obviously wins.

    • Coffee says:

      Mr. Kapaun: (Ray and God are one and the same.) People wanted to be in “the elite” status of living in North Albany. Now they can’t get across the bridge because of the traffic. There are too many people in this old world, and they need housing; so, on a finite amount of land, it is stupid to build more huge, single-family homes with huge lawns. Also, how many of those North Albany residents are for abortion rights for women.
      Probably not many. As I said, there are too many people on this planet.

      • Gus Chiggins says:

        How this turned into abortion rights is mind boggling. Plain and simple, the powers that be do not care that the roads are already choked leaving north Albany. Soon traffic at n Albany road from hwy 20 to scenic will be at a standstill. Just wait…

      • Ann says:

        Just because you live in north Albany does not mean you are or want to live in an elite status. I live in a decent house, off of Springhill Drive, in a 65 year old house as a single, retired person. No different than anyone else. I get tired of hearing that if you live in “north Albany” you must be rich or think you are better than everyone else.

        • Coffee says:

          Scroll on down. M. LaFrance says “we moved to N. Albany to not have to (be) around townhouse salary (level) people.” Then, she or he says “ewww” Whether comment was in jest or for real, he/she put that out there.

  8. Don Strickland says:

    So, the developer just decided on his own to do what he wanted, rather than what had been approved? Or did someone at city hall decided on his/her own to tell him it was OK to do whatever he pleased. I can see$$$$$ changing hands here.

  9. Ann Johnson says:

    They notified people within 100 feet?? That is ridiculous. There is way too much traffic coming to and from north Albany already, not including that we are becoming surrounded everywhere with apartments. It feels like decisions are already made and we really aren’t getting a say with “notifications” like this. It appears that public opinion is not really wanted.

  10. MarK says:

    The tracts off Crocker have already added enough congestion and traffic headaches. This is just ridiculous. Our council is only looking for more tax revenue to spend on their pet projects.

  11. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I smell an opportunity for the city here.

    So, in keeping with their insatiable appetite for more revenue, traffic cameras with zero tolerance must be installed along all of Gibson Hill Road, from Scenic Drive to North Albany Road.

    And a noise camera may be needed to curb the expected increase in honking and cursing.

    In other words, make safety pay – literally.

    • Pat says:

      Traffic speed cameras are an excellent suggestion for Gibson Hill! The City could really make money then!

  12. Mike says:

    Albany definitely needs middle housing. Hopefully this project fills some of that gap.

    • Derek says:

      I just hope they’re actually priced in a way that helps the people in need of affordable housing. Not having them priced in the 300k’s would be great.

    • Eli says:

      Exactly what I thought. Both buying and rental prices are getting unsustainable and I can’t help but think any news is good news when it comes to greater supply.

    • Sonamata says:

      It needs *owner-occupied* middle housing. I’ll eat my hat if these don’t end up as rentals, just like Edgewater Village.

  13. Pat says:

    There is apparently absolutely nothing the public can do about the continued growth in North Albany. The City claims their hands are tied in most, if not all cases. The City has zero ability to improve ingress and egress to North Albany and normally claim again they can do little about traffic speed on Gibson Hill. Lepman Companies are also building new housing across the street at Sunny and they also appear to own the agricultural lot next door to the 80 townhomes, so you know what happens next.

  14. Craig says:

    They need more people to cross the newly implemented traffic cameras on North Albany Road to keep the ticket rate up. Higher numbers mean more tickets. Win, win.

  15. SanD says:

    How does notifying those within 100 feet solicit any feedback? How about notifying all of us here in NA? Others have already stated, traffic is becoming a nightmare and roads were not designed for this much density.

    If public could have input until the 16th, how did all of this get done already? Clearly no input was wanted, nor was it ever going to be heard.

  16. Mr MB says:

    Nice… Albany will have its own “Projects”

  17. MarK says:

    Looks like Steph Newton sold us out (again). This wouldn’t have happened with Dick Olsen. Another example of people getting what they voted for.

  18. Richard Vannice says:

    This “development” is on one of my daily walk routes and i have been watching the progress. When I saw that array of mail boxes I nearly fell over. If thee ae 80 living spaces and each one has at least one person who works days that means 80 cars trying to get on Gibson Hill at the same time every morning.
    Laura Vista is the only street in or out of this which is going to be a night mare! Someone should have thought of this and required that two stub streets be completed, by the developer, to Thorn.
    Also, I for one am disgusted with the city having rules, which in this case were apparently ignored by both parties, then only enforcing, them when they want.

  19. Rebecca says:

    This plan was obviously put into motion before comments were requested, before permits were even asked for, if the utilities were installed. And we are the dupes. They’ll use that whole property, then tackle the acreage across from the school

  20. Anon says:

    There is a key part of this story that would appear to have a typo. I believe it was the 2021 legislature, not the 2001 legislature. Sarah Gelser was involved in this outcome, the city of Albany is forced to follow these rules.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Correct. Thanks. I’ll fix it.

        • Sharon Konopa says:

          Thank you for posting the bill, Mr. Andersen. It brought back memories. HB2001 was the last bill being voted on for that session. I was watching online and pleased it was defeated and then the sponsors met behind closed doors. They convinced others to reconsider the bill and then it passed. My seven page testimony listed online was a part of the record, which proves this legislative change was not city driven and fully pushed by the state. I remember being interviewed by OPB and I gave the reporter a tour of Albany to show him why I opposed this legislation. I tried all I could and as I stated in another comment, I wasted my time.

  21. Nancy Zanotti says:

    Living just a block away from this travesty I am concerned about traffic in and out of this area. I am concerned about drainage and the impact to surrounding parcels. I am concerned about the fact that improvements have been made as if this development is a done deal. I’m very concerned about additional development to adjacent properties and there seems to little we can do to change the course of this insanity! Who is ultimately responsible if not the city departments?

  22. Annie says:

    I called the City Development department to find out the chain of command. This is what I learned…(hopefully I was given correct information)
    The City counsel is not involved with these decisions. The Traffic Coordinator who works in Public Works gives the initial okay and then it goes to the city’s Planning Department. Hasso perhaps more investigating is called for?

  23. Bud Culver says:

    Who inspected the infrastructure and approved it? If there were no engineering plans for the 80 lot infrastructure how was it approved without plans?
    Someone is making a lot of money on this coverup.

  24. Katherine says:

    Those mail boxes have been there for MONTHS. I believe the decision was made long ago.
    I’ve been walking there for months and it was never going to 22 homes. That was obvious from the infrastructure. Are they going to be for sale or RENT?

  25. chris j says:

    The city of Albany is a political hoedown. They happily dance around issues and pass you off on someone else who then passes you off to someone else until you get dizzy and quit or go home. It’s called the “pass the buck” hoedown. Mr. Irish is a superb dancer. Be prepared to dance your butt off.

  26. Thomas Prislac says:

    We need to come together and solicit feedback from an attorney filing an injunction to prevent this development. The fact that they developed out of order and had these installed before receiving comments along with a lack of any infrastructural study provided to the public is a violation of the law passed by the state and signed by the governor. I will attempt to draft this language and file the injunction myself but I am not an attorney.

    • HH says:

      See below post citing where to comment by April 16, doing so will result in application review and a hearing

  27. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    Thanks once again Hasso for this information! Maybe instead of suggesting that Hasso investigates more, you /we should be getting a hold of the Democrat herald and demanding that things like this get coverage! Thank goodness for H.H. but he can’t do this forever. We will need to be more outspoken as a community, more involved in city meetings/ committees/ voting as citizens in order to make these changes that we demand on a blog. I agree with you all about this being crooked, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they have approved this well before asking public input. Or maybe there should have been more input when it originally got approved. Idk if there is anything to be done about this now but I do know there will be more and we need to fight against it as a community.

    • Beth T. says:

      I agree Rachel. Everyone needs to send in comments and attend the hearings and speak out. That is how changes are made and developments stopped.

  28. M. LaFrance says:

    We moved to N. Albany to not have to around townhouse salary people. ewww

  29. Hj.anony1 says:

    Oh look! Another development just north of this one. Road and infrastructure going in just south of 24th, parallel to Laura Vista. Presumably for single family homes.

  30. Angelica Steward says:

    I’m interested in the townhouse please send me information asap

  31. Matthew Calhoun says:

    It’s clear the majority of commenters didn’t actually read Hasso’s post from beginning to end. “But the 2021 Oregon legislature made such local zoning provisions irrelevant by requiring cities to allow so-called “middle housing” on any residential lot.” If you’re looking for blood at city hall you’re looking in the wrong place.

  32. Josh Mason says:

    Everyone should be aware of the N. Albany Refinement Plan published April 19, 2003 by the City of Albany which states the city’s build out forecast population for N. Albany within the existing urban growth boundary at 19,075. The City of Albany and no one else is responsible for this figure. Do note this build out plan significantly predates Governor Kotek’s housing bill, the Climate-Friendly and Equitable Community (CFEC), and Senator Sarah Gesler. Educate yourselves first and find someone else to blame.

  33. Sharon Konopa says:

    Okay, a bit of history here! The North Albany Refinement Plan referenced here estimated the population at build out, which means every piece of land. It did not allow the density that has been taking place. The only density at that time was next to the commercial village. Cluster development was a new code at that time and it was to protect wetlands on certain parcels.

    In the 2015 or 2017 legislative session started whittling away at city home rules and local land use planning. The state prevented cities like Albany from allowing voter approved annexations. Since 1997, Albany voters had a say in how much land we wanted to have annexed in to our city. Sadly, all taxpayers end up subsidizing every new house being built, so well-managed growth helped to lessen the burden on us taxpayers.

    Then the state required cities to allow ADU’s in backyards in what they believed would solve the problem for the need of affordable housing. What a joke! Also, cities our size had to allow middle housing in single-family zoning.

    Then the next session they took away single-family zoning, all because this would solve the housing crisis and so many people bought into these changes in hopes they would be able to afford a place to live. Well guess what, us Oregonians are still waiting for that problem to be solved! It was so obvious this would play in the hands of the developers and not in the best interest of affordable housing. Also, if a developer wanted to build middle housing and if there was not the infrastructure to support it, then the city could not prevent the housing from being built.

    I’m sorry to be negative towards our state leaders, but they have destroyed our land use laws and the ability to focus on livable neighborhoods. This wasn’t a one political party decision, both parties bought into it.

    Some of our local leaders are to blame for past decisions also. The developers and homebuilders have controlled local elections for decades and now we all end up dealing with the results.

    Some people are happy with more housing growth. But I have seen this for almost three decades now, more housing takes more infrastructure, more public services and facilities and more schools. All Albany residents get stuck paying for more taxes and fees from the demands of growth. This saga will continue and with our pocketbooks!

    It is just very sad for me to see how well-managed planning has been destroyed. I spent years and years in loads of meetings advocating for good land use policy and then the state comes along and wipes it away! I guess I wasted my time!

    Keep in mind, state policies can always change, so maybe question your elected officials if they support change!

    • Coffee says:

      So, where are you advocating that people live who can’t afford single family homes in your “utopian” view of the world? You are the product of a time when the U.S. thought everyone could live forever in a rose-covered, house and wear rose-colored glasses/blinders regarding the condition of people without sufficient income.

      • Abe Cee says:

        Somewhere other than Albany would be an option. You are not guaranteed a right to live in a city of your choosing.

        A city should be under no obligation to provide a certain type of housing. Let the market itself decide via supply and demand. If the demand is there, then developers will build it. The problem is that there is demand for what many consider to be unaffordable as well as demand for lower cost housing. Given the choice, is it any surprise a developer would build what would earn them the most money?

      • Sharon Konopa says:

        Your caffeine name missed my point. The ones wearing rose colored glasses are the decision makers from the state (it was not the city) who changed these policies believing it would provide housing for the lower income to buy. We are all waiting for that one to happen! If I have rose colored glasses on, then I am proud of wanting children to be raised in a home with at least a little yard to run around in.

      • Dan W says:

        You are rather terse and rude. Rose colored? Utopian? Who are you to judge anyone and invalidate their concerns? Clean it up and join a civilized debate.

  34. chris j says:

    Our local leaders need to be chosen by the people, not by the people who fund them. As Ms. Konopa stated we are dealing with the results. No matter what the loopholes allow does not make it right for the citizens of Albany. They make us suffer for what they have gained from abusing these loopholes. We need to solicit the state to investigate the land use projects that the city has made since these laws were created.

  35. Josh Mason says:

    Thank for adding your historical perspective, Sharon. However, ADU’s and the elimination of new single family housing rules make up only a tiny fraction of overall housing in N. Albany. They cannot be blamed for the influx of thousands of new residents coupled with the continued severe lack of infrastructure, the highly car-centric and car-dependant neighborhoods resulting in ever-growing car traffic and congestion, the destruction and cookie-cutter suburbification of once natural forested and oak savanna native flora and fauna species habitat, the unaffordable half a million median home prices, etc…. The majority of housing in N. Albany has always been and remains single family housing. The ratio of new development approvals to supportive necessary planning has been imbalanced since the annexation. Approving development conducive to the existing infrastructure let alone planning for and providing necessary infrastructure matching development approvals and the natural environment have all come second to new growth revenue. That is not well-managed planning or good land use policy for a fast growing and diversified population in an environment with an abundance of valuable natural resources. It was obvious back in 2005 and today an even more blatant slap in the face. ADU’s, apartments, duplexes, and rows of town houses among single family housing aren’t the cause of the issues residents of N. Albany are facing. Unimaginative, tax revenue-fixated, and myopic inflexible policy makers year after year for decades are. I’m sorry but state leaders’ recent policy reforms are not responsible here. It’s local leaders and cozy developers with their influential revenue streams who are. There are plenty of cities in Oregon that have better managed the same challenges: Corvallis, Hood River, Grants Pass, Redmond, W. Salem, Ashland, and Newberg to name a few.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      The huge difference between Albany and the other cities you mentioned is we have a river that divides the city. Corvallis’ housing is on one side of the Willamette. In 1997 we pushed for a future bridge plan over the river and as of today we won’t see that in my lifetime. So we had to plan our zoning for what the infrastructure could handle at that time. Lower density north of the river would put less demand on the bridge. North Albany Village was to help with local services. Many other factors played in to the increase of traffic, including commuter traffic over the bridge. The state has been changing rules for cities in pushing for more density for a couple decades. I have sat in those meetings where DLCD attends whenever we had to update our zoning plans putting the pressure on. So what we had for past local control has floated away!

    • Coffee says:

      Thank you for your well-considered, intelligent, wise words.

  36. Heather says:

    In question specific to middle housing ordinance: roads not properly designed accommodate emergency vehicles, adequate open space, off street parking requirements, traffic hazards , the adjusted property lot below zoning standard 10000 sq ft, traffic into arterial streets, turn lane at scenic , turn lane to neighborhood, traffic study support to another 160 vehicles, one way in/out to neighborhood. Busing for schools supporting more kids, buses constantly canceling as is. Public comment is open until Tuesday April 16 @ 5 pm.

  37. chris j says:

    If everyone had this level of interest in all the city’s decisions that affected the citizens in Albany, we would not be at this point. What applies to one, applies to all. The city made bad decisions for other areas in town, people did not defend them. North Albany might end up with a homeless shelter and a camp. North Albany might end up with a homeless shelter and a camp. I think you might want everyone to consider how it would affect you.

  38. ka says:

    I doubt townhouses will bring in homeless camps…. Sorry but well-maintained cities will bring in more people who want to live there and you can’t stop landowners from selling land to builders.

    • Dan W says:

      ka I don’t believe that’s the issue. The impact studies have not been done on 80 units. The original plan was for 20 single family homes. Wouldn’t you agree a 4X increase changes a lot? Are the residents of N.A .supposed to absorb the impact without addressing serious concerns? Why not put up skyscrapers next? I know that sounds silly, but would you put it past the folks in the Capitol? I wouldn’t.

  39. Leo Clarke says:

    Sharon has been trying for years to give North Albany apartments. These enable this desire.

    The issue is the lack of public voice in these changes.

    How in the heck do so many people who live within striking distance of these substantial housing density changes be not aware of them.??

    To say that the city council and mayor are “not included ” in these decision paths is one thing- but for them to NOT take the time to notify a large percentage of “their citizens” represents a failure in governance.

    The quick, somewhat un-announced, decision to add heavy expansion to this area – seems to violate the trust of the citizens who pay their salaries. Sincerely: Leo C.

  40. Jesse McManus says:

    Another big concern is the lack of a high school in NA. More and more children are having to ride a bus across the river for school. The buses slow traffic and add to the congestion. Students should be able to attend school near their homes rather than wasting their time sitting on buses. Perhaps some of the remaining open land in NA should be set aside for a high school.


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