Cascade Locks answers housing demand


News editor

July 13, 2005

The City of Cascade Locks has geared up for future growth by amending its community development code to permit common wall row houses.

City Council recently approved construction of zero side yard dwelling units. The intent of the elected body was to maximize available land within the limited urban growth boundary. Robert Willoughby, city administrator, said Cascade Locks lies within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Therefore, he said the city needs to plan ahead since federal protection regulations make it difficult to expand the residential base.

Plus, he said a new county study on affordable housing underscores a “desperate” need for dwellings that could be purchased by people with lower incomes.

“There is a demand and a need in this community for development that encourages home ownership,” said Willoughby.

The former minimum regulation for an individual low-density lot in Cascade Locks was 6,500 square feet, with an average of 7,500 square feet when two or more lots are created. The amendments to Ordinance O-062705-2 now allow zero side yard dwellings on lots of 3,500 square feet, or 12,000 square feet for an entire development of no more than six units.

In medium and high density sectors of town, the individual lot size has been lowered to 2,000 square feet, or 8,000 square feet for the entire development.

The minimum lot width for row houses, which can also be built singly, is 20 feet.

However, these structures must still be separated from neighboring buildings by a distance of at least 10 feet.

Developers are required in the amended code to use at least five architectural features to break up the facade of a building.

No single complex is allowed to exceed 125 feet in length.

The exterior face of the residences must include: dormers, gables, recessed entries, cupolas, pillars or posts, bay windows, cornices, trellises, and other variations in material, patterns or texture.

“We didn’t want them to look like ’barracks apartments’ so we established design standards,” said John Morgan, contract planner.

To address the concerns of Fire Chief Jeff Pricher, the council agreed that durable fire walls should be installed between units, along with sprinkler systems. The lead emergency responder wanted the greatest level of protection possible to help the rural department fight any major blaze.

“We want affordable housing to come here. But we’re not Portland and we don’t have the manpower or equipment that these cities do,” said Pritchard during his appeal for maximum precautions to be taken.

“If I would buy a row house I’d be at the mercy of the guy next door to me. So, I’d rather know there were sprinklers in place to take care of problems,” agreed Councilor Rob Brostoff.

Willoughby said because row houses require smaller lot sizes, the units are typically less expensive to purchase. And that, he said, should help young families and individuals on lower incomes be able to buy a home. He said whether or not a tribal gambling casino comes to town, the city needs to be looking ahead to meet future demands.

“This goes to a value that’s held dear and that’s ownership affordability. The ability to realize the American dream at a lower threshold,” said Morgan.

Because the council had been advised that at least one application was pending for a row house project, they put the new code into effect immediately following its June 27 passage.

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