Consultants look at vacant lots to determine land where housing could go in city limits

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Todd Chase and Tim Wood, left and center, consultants with FCS Group, speak during a housing needs anaylsis public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12.Consultants are continuing efforts to determine housing needs and how to accommodate anticipated growth in St. Helens over the next 20 years.

On Tuesday night, Feb. 12, Todd Chase and Tim Wood, consultants with FCS Group, returned to the city for those discussions.

In December, the city hosted its first housing needs analysis meeting with FCS Group, a Lake-Oswego based financial, economic and utility consulting analytic agency. Funding for the study is provided by the state Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The consultants determined that roughly 700 acres of buildable land exists within the city and its urban growth boundary. To arrive at that figure, they looked at land qualified as vacant or partially vacant, and discarded land from the inventory list that would present development problems, like wetlands or lands designated for public use, such as roads and parks.

The majority of buildable land currently exists in a low-density residential zone, with some in medium- and high-density and commercial or mixed use zones.

The city is expected to grow by 3,617 people over the next 20 years, data from Portland State University's population forecast show. To accommodate that growth, roughly 1,400 housing units will be needed.

During the meeting Tuesday night, St. Helens Planning Commission members reviewed the draft survey, while city staff provided input on land that might have been omitted from the plan.

Commissioner Greg Cohen inquired if 700 acres of land was too much, or too little, to meet the growth needs of the city. Chase noted that there is no magic number.

"It all depends on how fast you grow," Chase said.

The draft version of the available lands study provides a basic outline of land supply. However, determining how much land is available is only the first step. From here, FCS will take the report and reconcile it with the number of housing units anticipated to

be needed and where they can be built. The result will

highlight areas where zoning for specific types of residen-

tial buildings might exist, or which zones might be lack-


The next housing needs analysis meeting will be held Tuesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. at the St. Helens City Council chambers.

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