Thursday, December 8, 2022
Dec. 8, 2022

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Staff want to make it easier to build housing in Woodland

But city council tables discussion until Feb. workshop

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WOODLAND — The Woodland City Council recently punted on a controversial resolution that would amend current housing codes in a way that could drastically change the city’s look.

After reviewing the local municipal code, city staff recommended Nov. 7 allowing such housing as corner-lot duplexes, nine-lot short plats, triplexes, duplexes and townhomes. The council decided to table the discussion until a Feb. 7 workshop.

Travis Goddard, Woodland’s community development director, said city staff want to make building local housing easier.

“We’re trying to create tools and opportunities and remove barriers for housing projects,” he said.

Goddard considers the moves to alter the housing code “pretty big,” but the changes are necessary for Woodland to address its negative housing growth due to fires and demolition.

Woodland’s housing shortage has driven up the cost of buying into one of the city’s neighborhoods, and a housing grant from the state allows Woodland to explore ways to “streamline housing opportunities and increase density,” Goddard said. The tabled resolution was formed in order to receive the grant.

During the public comment section of the Nov. 7 city council meeting, several people said they were against the changes, because creating more affordable housing would attract the type of people they don’t want in the city. One person said the changes could lead to the creation of a homeless encampment like the one on Alabama Street in Longview.

When asked for his reaction by the handful of residents expressing disapproval of the housing action plan, Goddard said, “Everyone in the community has the right to voice their opinion. … I don’t know whether they fully read the entire ordinance or whether they participated in the process.”

State grant

The vocal audience on Nov. 7 attacked the resolution that came from a study aimed at making housing more affordable for current and future residents. In 2020, Woodland received a state grant to “analyze the city’s housing stock and consider code amendments” to address the ongoing housing crisis that has gripped cities.

House Bill 1923, which passed in the 2019-20 Washington legislative session, requires cities with a population of less than 10,000, under the Growth Management Act, to increase residential building capacity and affordable housing or change its housing element plans.

Cities that don’t comply by Dec. 31 will be forbidden from receiving specific funding and allowing developers to receive exemptions for the State Environmental Policy Act.

ADUs

City staff believe a change in the housing code would benefit the community’s stakeholders, especially homeowners. They argue that the changes would cut red tape for accessory dwelling units, or guesthouses, by removing costly hurdles so that homeowners could create additional income from their property.

“The idea behind these is, if you’re a senior and you have a little extra room or a large backyard, that you could potentially add a small rental unit and add some additional revenue,” Goddard said.

Woodland City Council member John Burke put forth a motion to table the resolution for further discussions at a later date.

Council member Monte Smith offered a motion for a workshop to take place instead of bringing back the housing action plan as an item. After council member Carol Rounds seconded the motion, the council voted unanimously to hold the workshop Feb. 7.

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