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Volume 15, Issue 7
July 2017


Act now to preserve our neighborhoods
By Virginia Bruce

Sign the petition!

Ordinance 820 will be considered by the Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, July 11. It severely limits the protections for existing neighborhoods when infill development is built.

The existing house, left, lost its privacy when larger homes were built on graded land above it.

Infill development occurs when two-acre or smaller parcels are developed with new houses in existing neighborhoods that are zoned for five or six homes per acre (R5, R6). Ordinance 820 would gut the existing standards and would create more impacts from infill developments on those already living in our neighborhoods. Privacy, the environment, and quality of life will be diminished.

Existing standards state that building orientation, setbacks, landscaping, buffering and fencing will be considered as approaches to provide or maintain privacy. Ordinance 820 would replace that with either a “minimum six-foot evergreen landscape buffer, or minimum six-foot tall site-obscuring fence.”

Members of the Code and Ordinance Subcommittee of the Community Involvement program have created a petition to let people send a message to the Board of Commissioners that 820 needs to be fixed. Please consider signing to send a message to preserve the character and livability of our neighborhoods.

Ordinance 820 is a terrible response to a complicated situation. Oregon has a “needed housing rule” (ORS 197.307) that asks jurisdictions—counties and cities—to encourage the development of more housing. (The rule doesn’t specify that it be affordable.) It says that the jurisdictions can apply rules to ensure compatibility with existing neighborhoods as long as the rules are “clear and objective.”

For several years, CPO members around the county have been asking Land Use and Transportation (LUT) to improve the language of the Community Development Code (CDC) so that standards are “clear and objective,” instead of the somewhat vague language that exists now. County Counsel (the county’s lawyer) advised that “because existing standards are not clear and objective, they would be unlikely withstand an appeal” according to an Issue Paper written earlier this year.

In response, LUT staff came up with Ordinance 820 that would remove ALL the language from Section 430-72 of the CDC that previously protected existing neighborhoods, and replace it with the choice of a bush or a fence. That won’t do anything to lessen the impact of two-story houses built on slopes that overlook existing one-story homes and yards.

Suzanne Savin, Senior Planner with LUT, responds, “We realize that the proposed infill standards (6’ fence or hedge) are unlikely to screen views between adjacent properties when there are significant elevation differences involved. Requiring other screening options, however, are either not feasible, would have negative impacts, or could decrease the affordability.”

It really boils down to developer profits. In general, developers of R5 and R6 properties build the largest possible homes, with five-foot side yards and 15-foot minimum back yards. Savin says, “Increasing setbacks for infill lots would mean homes with smaller footprints, which could discourage infill development.”

We will deliver the petitions to the BCC at their July 11 meeting. Anyone interested in testifying can attend the meeting at the Hillsboro Civic Center Shirley Huffman Auditorium, 120 N First, Hillsboro. The meeting begins at 10 am. If you want to testify, be sure to sign the form at the entrance of the meeting.

The county website has an information page about infill standards, with additional information about Ord. 820.


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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2017