New Era

The state legislation is designed to increase housing diversity and affordability by requiring cities with populations over 10,000 to adopt duplex-friendly zoning.

The reign of single-family dwelling units in St. Helens. and across most of Oregon, is over.

House Bill 2001, approved by voters in 2019, aims to increasing housing diversity and affordability by requiring cities with populations over 10,000 to adopt duplex-friendly zoning.

City Planner Jacob Graichen presented the St. Helens City Council with the options the city has moving forward at its Nov. 4 work session. Graichen said he has been discussing the bill with the planning commission, and needs the input of the council so the city can develop and adopt a new code by June 20, 2021, or the state-created one will be applied.

Essentially, each lot that allows single-family dwelling is obligated under the bill to allow duplexes as well.

“The U.S. has had single family zoning for a long time, and it’s historic for St. Helens because next year it ends,” Graichen said.

The bill specifically requires that cities over 10,000— “medium sized”— must adopt the new rules.

“In these three rural counties surrounding the metro area, we’re the lone soldier dealing with this,” Graichen said.

The existing St. Helens code requires that duplexes be attached structures, whereas the state guidance loosens the definition to two houses sharing one lot. This would require the city to take another look at is accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules, and possibly render them obsolete.

“I think our ADU rules are going to become antiquated,” Graichen said. He said permitting would be easier for builders to claim additional property builds as duplexes rather than ADUs.

The bill also requires that the duplex lots have no more than two parking spots on the lot, and has no off-street parking requirement.

The rough timeline for moving forward has a draft code ready by Feb. 3 to be submitted to the Department of Land Conservation and Development, a public comment hearing in March or April, a council hearing in April, ordinance readings twice in May and the code taking effect on June 30, 2021.

The city will notify the property owners affected by the changes as the process moves forward.

Other council news:

  • Changes to business license fees are on the horizon. Temporary, weekly business licenses will be traded in favor for 60-day business licenses. Other fees will increase.
  • Two plats were approved for signature by the mayor: Graystone Estate Subdivision and Hanna Place Subdivision.

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