Cannon Beach weighs housing options

The Cannon Beach affordable housing task force hears public comment last week.

Task force moves forward, with some pushback

By Lyra Fontaine

Cannon Beach Gazette

The Cannon Beach affordable housing task force has zeroed in on rental housing for middle-income residents, moving closer to identifying locations for workforce units and concentrating on areas outside of downtown to conserve parking and provide lower-cost alternatives.

City goals include providing 25 affordable housing units by 2018, then adding 25 more units by 2020.

“I think what makes Cannon Beach unique is that you own the land,” Todd Johnston, Northwest Oregon Housing Authority executive director and a task force member, said at a meeting last week. “What has made it difficult in other communities is there’s no place to build. A developer would have to come in and purchase the land.”

The task force has seen 24- and 25-unit affordable housing concepts for the RV Park on Haskell Lane and the downtown Spruce Street parking lot, and a nine-unit design for affordable housing at the former Cannon Beach Children’s Center in Tolovana Park. In a final report to the council, the task force might not suggest housing in downtown, but may recommend using small park model homes as one portion of affordable housing on the city-owned RV Park. Consultant Terri Silvis estimated the parking lot option would cost about $4.5 million, the children’s center property $1.7 million and the RV Park about $5 million. The numbers assume each square foot is $150 and the city leases land to a real estate developer. Task force members discussed opportunities for local funding and private investors.

The task force agreed that putting affordable housing on the downtown Spruce Street parking lot was a “poor option” and “unrealistic,” citing downtown businesses that need parking. The concept of housing at the children’s center may be reconsidered to include the entire property, including the Tolovana Arts Colony building across the street.

In June, former Mayor Mike Morgan and former City Planner Rainmar Bartl suggested tiny, factory-built park model homes as an alternative concept for affordable housing at the RV Park.

The task force agreed to consider replacing some of the affordable housing units in the concept design with park model “tiny homes” that could work for individuals or couples.

“You’re getting at the variety of needs that you’ve identified, some more expensive and some more quick and affordable,” Silvis said of the park model cottages.

City Planner Mark Barnes said the RV Park is already zoned and permitted for park model homes, though the city would need to allow long-term tenants.

“Of the options we’ve talked about, that is by far the fastest,” he said.

The cost of park models, which would take up 12 RV spaces, would be lower than new construction.

Resident Ed Johnson said that people in the community who might be affected by affordable housing at the RV Park or at the children’s center should be contacted before the task force makes a final recommendation.

“There’s some bigger issues that I wish were being addressed, particularly those people most closely associated with the intended plans that you have on the table,” Johnson said.

Several residents said it was business owners’ issue and some local businesses provide housing for employees.

Resident Phil Massebeau said the focus should be on finding a private party to build housing.

“We could make it easier for an apartment complex to come in but why do we have to put one in the RV Park, the most populated part of Cannon Beach with full-time residents?” he said.

Resident Jan Siebert-Wahrmund said keeping the community sustainable is difficult.

“I know we don’t have much water in our watershed to take on much more growth,” she said.

The affordable homes would be available for those who make about 70 to 100 percent of the area median income.

“I think it’s so critical that this gets done,” City Manager Brant Kucera said. “We’re the only ones trying to do this and I’d hate to see this go down in flames because it feels like the square foot cost is too much.”

The task force could provide a report with recommendations to the City Council by November.

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