A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Rezoning: Are neighbors protected?

Written May 29th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Apartments could be built on this wooded lot under the proposed rezoning.

Apartments could be built on this wooded lot under the proposed rezoning.

If you can’t rely on zoning to protect your home and neighborhood from unwelcome change, what can you rely on? Maybe the city council in at least one pending Albany case. We’ll see in a couple of weeks.

It concerns a single parcel of just under 1.4 acres at 241 Waverly Drive S.E., half a block north of busy Pacific Boulevard. The densely wooded property contains a residence and serves as a splendid buffer between a motel and lube business facing the highway on the south and an assortment of single-story residences on the other side.

The parcel is zoned single-family as is the entire area except for the commercial strip fronting Pacific. The owner, who lives in Bend, is asking Albany to change its comprehensive plan and the zoning map for this parcel. The zoning he wants would allow up to 35 apartments, although no specific plan has been submitted.

In April the planning commission endorsed the request by a vote of 6-2, and Wednesday it was the council’s turn. The applicant’s representative is Rich Catlin, a professional planner working for a private firm/ (He is also chairman of the city’s downtown urban renewal advisory board, but that has noting to do with his work.)may 28 a 005

Catlin made three main points: The apartment zoning would make a good transition between commercial on one side and the neighborhood on the other. The city needs more medium-density housing, as shown by an analysis several years old. And the property’s irregular shape makes it hard to develop with single houses.

Sitting in the audience, I wondered why it has to be “developed” at all since there is already a house there, though it’s hard to see from the street because of all the trees and bushes. As for a nice transition, the lot serves that role perfectly in its present condition. A better buffer between highway commercial and neighborhood residential is hard to imagine. I also inwardly scoffed at the notion that any study — old or new — should be cited to prove that so and so many units of housing are needed by 2025 or any other date. If people can make a living, they live in the housing that’s available and they can afford, and the market will respond if allowed. But that doesn’t mean cities ought to rezone individual lots at the request of investors — in this case creating an apartment island.

The council heard only one witness in opposition. Kasey Tegner and her family have lived in the house directly north of the rezoning proposal for 25 years. She fears an apartment complex a few feet from her windows would clearly have an adverse effect on her household and neighborhood, and she made a god case.

To their credit, council members Dick Olsen, Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum raised questions about the proposal’s effect on residents of what now is a sleepy neighborhood of modest houses and two or three single-story apartment courts. Because of a parliamentary rule, the zone change could not be acted on at Wednesday’s meeting. It will come up again June 10. Depending on what the council does, Albany residents will learn whether the comprehensive plan and zoning give them any protection, or that they don’t. (hh)

13 responses to “Rezoning: Are neighbors protected?”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    This shows the kind of hard decision making that your elected officials have to make.

    You give short shrift to the need for certain kinds of housing in the future. But that is exactly what zoning has to do – anticipate future needs while attempting to make a good quality of living for as many as possible.

    I don’t know the right decision. But I hope that your readers understand that their councilors have to make these decisions all the time. And they do that for a whopping $160 a month or so.

    Instead to beating them over the head by calling everything “pet projects”, or “cronyism”, or “stealing from taxpayers” they ought to get your respect and appreciation even if you don’t agree with their individual political positions.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Just to clarify, I’m not referring to Hasso when commenting on some of the things said about elected officials.

    • Bobby says:

      Agreed Bob. I wonder whether Hasso believes that it was coercion, corruption, and cronyism that caused the original decision to zone this parcel single-family, or if it’s only coercive when the property owner gets additional methods for developing his land.

      Certainly these decisions aren’t easy. Maybe the council will make a bad policy choice. But neither the idea that everyone should be free to do what they want with “their” private property nor the idea that the current zoning should be frozen in time never to be amended when any neighbor would have the right to complain makes much sense to me. The land you own in a city, in a state, in a country, full of people with competing and changing values, preferences, populations, and aspirations. If there’s a better way to aggregate those preferences than democratic governance, I’d be interested in hearing what it is.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I am antagonistic to coercively imposed zoning laws that limit a person’s freedom to use their private property as they see fit. These laws should be abolished.

    Abolishing freedom-robbing zoning laws does not mean people would be incapable of exercising control over their neighborhood or preserving the character of their surroundings. Such fears are grossly exaggerated.

    Voluntary zoning through contractual agreement is the best solution and, by necessity, would take the arbitrary and politically motivated mandates of government out of the equation.

    Unlike Bob, I do not appreciate or respect a process that grants coercive power to a few people over how the rest of us choose to use our privately owned property.

    Such schemes are a gross violation of our private property rights and individual freedoms.

    • Gary Richards says:

      Zoning laws were enacted in Oregon to prevent the very “freedom-robbing ability to use private property as the owner sees fit.”

      In fact it was a single farmer who opposed unregulated development that threatened his way of life and it was through that opposition that our current planning/zoning laws were developed and enacted.

      Are you saying the rights of one property owner (or group of property owners) should supersede the rights of another? That is exactly what was occurring, residential development that occurred which had the new home/property owners that abutted agricultural lands complaining at the noise, hours of operation, odors, and even animals having sex outside within view of their home’s windows.

      It was the very coercions these new property owners imposed on other property owners that led to the development and passage of Oregon’s Senate Bill 10 – this as a means to protect the rights of those in the agriculture business to not be forced out by sprawling developments.

      Without zoning laws individual property owners can be harmed. Heck, even you could have an animal slaughter house built immediately beside your property and there would be nothing you could do to prevent it without zoning laws. How about a Sewage treatment plant? That too could be an unfortunate reality for you to have as a neighbor were zoning regulations not in effect today. How about a brothel – how about a “gay” brothel! Yes Gordon, I am completely confident that you would be fully supportive of any such business ventures as your neighbor.

      So, I suggest that before you go off complaining about the coercion forced upon you through zoning laws I suggest you consider the coercive impacts to you and your family were zoning laws not in place.

      Again, without zoning laws individual property owners can be harmed. Yes then, and in your “perfect world,” you could simply take the offending party to court and hope to prove your harm and earn compensation. That compensation, however, only goes so far. This because you still have an unwanted neighbor that will then force you to stay, money in hand, and continue to suffer, or force you to relocate – something that might not be high on your list of things you want (or wanted) to do.

    • James Carrick says:

      Though I’m not aware of the motivations of the property owner in this case, a change in zoning can increase a property’s market value considerably. I know of a case where a property was purchased, a zoning change was requested and approved, and then resold at four times the original price paid….all in the span of 9 months. Good “work” if you can find it.

    • Bobby says:

      What is local government if not an implicit contractual provision to allow land use decisions to be made by an democratically elected council to make those types of housing decisions, subject to a public process and debate? I’m not quite sure how “privatizing” the decision making would create a better result. For my money, give me an publicly incompetent council over a privately corrupt HOA board any day. That is not to say governments can’t be corrupt or HOAs incompetent, but as long as those “freedom-robbing” decisions need to be made, I’m not sure what it is about transparency, public process, and democratic control that you abhor, other than the word “government.”

    • Bob Woods says:

      Bull. It’s called the Constitution. Since zoning has been going on for over 200 years, and has been affirmed by the Supreme Court, and adopted all over the country, that makes you part of the most extreme fringe in the country.

      We get it. You don’t like it. In the same way that children don’t like being told what to do.

      • Shawn Dawson says:

        Wow, while I do not agree with the philosophy of Mr. Shadle, I also don’t agree with a lot of what is done by the government with respect to properties either.

        But comments comparing those with differing points of view as children I’m sure were also said by the Loyalists back in 1775. Would one also refer to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as children because they didn’t like being told what to do?


  3. tom cordier says:

    Shall I expect HH to be concerned about residential property owners in precinct 96 where the APD will be located??
    The required zoning change to have APD sited there may have some difficulty.
    Much information has been supplied to HH already re that issue

    • Hasso Hering says:

      No zone change is required there, as I understand it. The police station will require a conditional use permit only, since it is neither a jail nor a detention center. (hh)

  4. tom cordier says:

    It has jail cells /detention cells in the building.

  5. Kasey Tegner says:

    This is a lovely debate you’ve got going. But when the 35 two-story apartments are 20 feet from your house that you’ve lovingly restored from falling-down condition over the last 25 years, all this academic debate is useless prattle. We own rentals, and we get it. But zoning is in place for a purpose. I doubt that the property owner in question cares as much about the impact on my quiet neighborhood as I do. He won’t be dealing with the traffic, noise, and double the number of neighbors as is on the entire street at the moment. He can’t hear that from Bend. He can only count his money.


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