Wilsonville tries to quell middle housing parking concerns
Some who oppose more dense housing in Wilsonville envision neighborhoods where local streets are flooded with cars and housing units have no off-street parking.
While also trying to comply with a new state law that mandated the allowance of middle housing (duplexes, triplexes, cottage clusters, etc.), the Wilsonville government is trying to assuage those concerns — and concerns about parking more broadly — via new code standards.
The city is limited to some degree in what it can do because state law prohibits local rules requiring houses to have more than one parking space. However, in July and August Planning Commission meetings, it proposed a number of potential remediations. Some include requiring that developers impose covenants mandating that garage spaces be used exclusively for parking (if it's designated as the only off-street parking space for a unit) and incentivizing developers to create off-street visitor parking areas by reducing open space and lot size requirements. For larger lots, the city is also considering adopting language that encourages developers to build two parking spaces per unit.
These policies have yet to be finalized and the city is in the process of preparing a final draft of its code changes to comply with middle housing legislation, which abolishes the single-family zoning that prevents the development of middle housing in neighborhoods.
The city added the covenant requirement after planning commissioners expressed skepticism that simply implementing standards to ensure that parking was amenable to cars would lead people to use them for parking. Instead, as Planning Commissioner Jennifer Willard put it, "You could make it (the garage) bigger and bigger and bigger and people will say 'Yay more storage.'"
So along with the covenant requirement, the city may implement design standards that make garage spaces easily usable for parking.
"If we're only going to require one space per unit, we better make sure those spaces count and that they are accessible, usable, (and) that they're used as parking. You don't want to have one required parking spot not be used as parking," Planning Manager Daniel Pauly said during a July Planning Commission meeting. He also said some areas in Villebois already have the parking covenant.
Pauly added that some areas of the city with only one required parking space have additional off-street parking because of homebuyer and developer preference.
"There's neighborhoods that have been built for years that only require one space per unit and a lot of them have more than that," he said.
Planning Commissioner Ronald Heberlein posited that the covenant would not be impactful, while Commissioner Jerry Greenfield felt that the city addressed concerns as best as it could.
As for visitor parking, Pauly said that for a 55-lot subdivision, the city could reduce open space by 5,400 square feet to build 33 shared parking spaces. And visitor parking would only be allowed in developments where 10% or more of the lots don't have on-street parking.
"While I don't like the idea of reducing open space, it is effective at providing more effective visitor parking on site," Heberlein said at the July meeting.
Enforcement of garage and visitor parking standards would be up to the local homeowners associations, however.
"The city is not set up for heavy parking enforcement. That takes our police officers from other duties and (also our) enforcement staff," Pauly said.
Planning Director Miranda Bateschell and Pauly also explained the state's rationalization for not wanting more stringent parking requirements. Essentially, they said, the state has a housing shortage and more parking means less living space. Parking also can increase the cost for developers and homeowners.
"The more parking we require as a city, along with design standards like setbacks, and the lot coverage standards, when you start putting those together and you're also requiring space for the parking or what might be a garage, it becomes infeasible to build additional middle housing units," Bateschell said. "And a lot of (House Bill 2001) was about integrating diversity of housing, but also just about the fact that we have a housing shortage in this state and the need for housing and so making more housing possible and feasible is important."
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