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In a move that brings the city of North Bend in line with new state housing regulations, the city council also took advantage of the opportunity to delve into planning policy and possibly increase housing stock. They’ll allow houses on what used to be lots too small and they’ll increase housing in commercial zones.

All that in rather short order.

With no discussion and an unanimous vote, the council at their November 9 meeting allowed duplexes in neighborhoods that formerly only allowed single family homes. That change brings the city in compliance with a state law passed in the last legislative session that compels cities with a population of 10,000 or more to allow duplexes, attached or detached, to be built with no greater regulations or parking demands in neighborhoods with single homes.

North Bend also passed a measure which lifts a ban on homes on undersized lots.

“We want to make it possible for people to add more homes to our city. So if someone has an undersized lot but can still meet all the other requirements, we want them to be able to build,” said Chelsea Schnabel, a city planner.

And the city’s new ordinance will ease up on allowing commercial spaces for residential use.

The city currently allows residential use in commercial zones but only when the portion of the building which faces the street is used for a business. Council voted to change that based on an argument put forward by the planning department:

“This commercial space caveat makes it difficult for the city to adapt when there are changes in the local economy, where commercial space is less in demand now than is residential and where a pandemic is capable of rewriting how businesses operate.”

The statement goes on to request more flexibility.

“The recommended changes aim to maintain the current code’s intention (provide for the look and feel of commercial space on the ground floor) while allowing for an entire building to be occupied with residential use when the façade includes certain commercial elements such as large window areas, covered entrances, etc. that lend to a pedestrian-friendly streetscape.”

The new rules still allow people who wish to use commercial buildings for business to use them that way. “Nothing would preclude the use of space for commercial uses. A building occupied with residential uses is more easily changed to accommodate commercial uses than vice versa.”

The changes to the code which allow duplexes in formerly single family home neighborhoods, undersized lots for building in residential areas and allowing entire commercial spaces to be used for residential - all passed with no comment from the public or council.

Changes in planning regulations are occurring across the state as Oregon grapples with the largest housing shortages in the nation. Municipalities are examining their housing ordinances to create more residential opportunities without changing the character of communities. This is the stated goal of North Bend:

“A continued land use planning process and policy framework to maintain and enhance the harmonious mixture of urban land uses within the city.”

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