WARRENTON — The City Commission on Tuesday approved the creation of the Chelsea Gardens neighborhood and passed a host of other code changes meant to increase the region’s housing stock.
Chelsea Gardens, formerly referred to as Spur 104, includes a wedge of land bounded by state Highway 104 and U.S. Highway 101 between Ocean Crest Chevrolet and Home Depot. Split between 19 property owners, it’s seen as a prime area for development out of the tsunami zone and close to amenities.
“The City of Warrenton wants to strike a balance with the need to create new housing and business opportunities with development of common-sense regulations to protect neighborhood livability and mitigate traffic impacts while supporting property owners’ interest in redeveloping,” according to a city ordinance creating the neighborhood.
The City Commission had previously approved a denser blend of commercial and residential development in the neighborhood. But commissioners, worried about the traffic impacts of unbridled development seen in traffic jams at the North Coast Retail Center, later voted to require a master plan paid for by urban renewal funds.
The city hosted a series of open houses gathering community input. Kevin Cronin, the city’s community development director, proposed a mix of commercial property, varying densities of housing, public spaces, trails and improved streets.
Cronin proposed limiting the number of new housing units in the neighborhood to 350. Commercial space in the neighborhood will be limited to 20,000 square feet per building, with a 50,000-square-foot cap overall. The master plan also prohibits drive-thru restaurants to avoid traffic impacts like those seen at the nearby Wendy’s.
The Planning Commission initially rejected the plan, calling it too restrictive on property owners while not directly addressing the traffic concerns that prompted the need for a master plan. Commissioner Ken Yuill, who owns much of the property in the Spur 104 area and recused himself during the commission’s hearings, criticized how prescriptive some of the standards are but said he recognizes the city’s goals of managing traffic and willingness to meet in the middle.
“I think all and all, no, I’m not happy about it,” he said. “But the commission felt this was the best they could do at the time.”
Vijaya Nakka, who owns two plots of land in the neighborhood where he plans to build two homes for senior living spaces, said he is grateful the city wants to improve the neighborhood while controlling traffic.
Several property owners in the neighborhood have spoken with Stuart Emmons, an architect and planner from Astoria who suggested the name Chelsea Gardens based on historical city maps of the area. Emmons is working with Walsh Construction Co. out of Portland to build an affordable housing complex of nearly 50 units in the region. He has hailed the master plan as providing a more livable neighborhood for development proposals like his.
“I want to be near transit, being near workplaces, near shopping, obviously markets,” he said. “Ideally, people can walk to a market and use transit, not absolutely have to have a car.”
Along with Chelsea Gardens, the City Commission on Tuesday approved a host of new development codes meant to increase the density of housing. Cronin’s recommendations included lower lot size requirements and more diverse housing types, such as mixed-use commercial-residential buildings, multiplexes, townhomes, cottage clusters and accessory dwelling units.
The Planning Commission had struck Cronin’s recommendation that subdivisions of 20 or more homes be required to include accessory dwelling units, and another banning certain siding materials city staff sees as unsuitable for the region’s environment.
The City Commission, which pushed Cronin to increase lot size and parking requirements for cottage clusters, on Tuesday also struck Cronin’s language defining transitional housing “provided as a social service to homeless such as a shelter, warming center or dormitory.”
Mayor Henry Balensifer said he isn’t opposed to transitional housing, but worried about setting a precedent allowing it before the city has developed standards to regulate such development.