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Code hearing turns into chance to vent about subdivision

Government — Neighbors frustrations are related to proposed Terra Estates subdivision in north Newberg


A group of local residents aired their frustrations with the Newberg Planning and Building Department and the city’s planning process last month, during a recent public hearing before the City Council on a proposed overhaul of the Newberg Development Code’s zoning regulations.

The residents asked questions and shared concerns regarding some of the possible changes, particularly those pertaining to R-1 residential zoning, while also expressing disappointment with an unrelated matter — a quasi-judicial hearing currently before the Newberg Planning Commission regarding the proposed Terra Estates subdivision north of town. The planned 44-lot development drew the ire of a number of neighboring property owners when it first came before commissioners Aug. 8, and several of the area residents returned to the Public Safety Building Aug. 19 to discuss the proposed changes to city codes.

Newberg Planning and Building Director Barton Brierley opened that hearing by explaining the goals of the planning commission, which directed the proposed overhaul. He explained the goals were to improve the usability and effectiveness of the code, modernize and clarify the code, correct a number of inconsistencies and meet state and federal laws.

He said commissioners recommended streamlining the hundreds of highly specific allowable commercial uses (including outdated ones like “reducing salons” and “blood banks”) into broader categories like “indoor recreation,” which would accommodate future growth without continuing to add new uses.

“It allows change over time as uses change,” Brierley said. “You don’t see many slot racing tracks any more, and in five, 10, 20 years, you’ll see some new sort of new use, I’m sure.”

Brierley said there also were some surprising uses that the previous version of the development code allowed in any zone, including garbage dumps, prisons and racetracks.

“If someone in a residential zone wanted to build a drag strip, you could come in and apply for a conditional use permit,” Brierley said. “Now, that’s not saying it would be granted, but the code would allow you to do it. And I think a whole lot of neighbors would be surprised when they got that notice.”

The new regulations would allow such uses only in more compatible zones, like heavy industrial.

However, the changes that primarily concerned residents like Jane Greller were ones she said were not included in Brierley’s presentation or in the notices that were distributed to residents with their water bills. One of those was the removal of language in the current code that describes R-1 as “the most important land use” in Newberg.

“That bothers me,” she said. “I like R-1. I live there. My neighbors live there. It’s gone.”

Brierley explained that the commission had questioned why the code should declare R-1 as the most important use, and had recommended removing that language to reflect the philosophy that all land uses are important and necessary.

“We need single family; we need multi-family. We need industrial; we need commercial; we need institutional,” he said. They’re all part of what makes the community a complete community.”

Greller and other residents also criticized the lack of clarity and apparent contradictions in some parts of the development code or the city’s master plan. They also expressed concern about new language referring to minimum lot sizes for R-1.

“I’m worried that this smaller lot size is going to change how Newberg looks,” resident Blythe Darula said. “I moved here because it was a small town and it was rural. I don’t want to live in Portland.”

But according to Brierley, any changes to the specifications of R-1 are merely updates to bring the codebook in line with the lower lot sizes the council approved for that zone in 2010. There are no actual changes to density or lot sizes in the proposed overhaul.

“You know we’re not going to go in and knock down your house and redo the density of things that are already done, right?” Councilor Denise Bacon asked a resident at one point. “The density is just on new buildings, because we spent so many years building on huge lots that we weren’t meeting our target goals for housing, and there’s no land left for housing.”

The proposed changes to the development code will go back before the council for second reading at its Sept. 16 meeting. Residents may contact the planning department at 503-537-1240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.




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