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Planning Commission approves permit for residential development on Gable Road

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - The St. Helens Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Community Development Partners to build a 238-unit complex with apartments, townhouses and senior living units along with community amenities for residents at this site on Gable Road. Due to a number of wetlands, city officials note that the complex will still need state approval before construction can begin. St. Helens could see a major influx of housing if a proposed multi-unit residential complex is approved by state agencies.

This week, the St. Helens Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Community Development Partners to establish a 238-unit housing complex with apartments, townhouses and senior housing near Highway 30 and Gable Road.

The commission approved the permit with several conditions on Tuesday, Sept. 10. City Planner Jacob Graichen said notice to surrounding property owners is expected to go out later this week and the decision of the commission will be final unless an appeal is filed within 14-day of the notice.

Getting the conditional use permit is the first step in the process, Graichen said, noting that developers will still need approval from the Oregon Department of State Lands and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers due to the significant amount of wetlands on the property.

Community Development Partners is proposing to develop a 14.42-acre parcel of land to site the 238 housing units, which would additionally include playgrounds and other outdoor place amenities. The development will also require nearly 440 parking spaces.

Community Development Partners focuses on building sustainable, affordable housing options with a focus on long-term community engagement, according to the company's website. Many of the residential projects the company highlights in its portfolio include housing with some type of community engagement component, like a community garden or shared outdoor space.

As part of the permitting process the developers were required to conduct a traffic impact study. Graichen explained that the two most impacted intersections from the development will be Highway 30 and Gable Road and Highway 30 and Millard Road. Gable Road will also be affected.

Using the city's developed 2011 Transportation Systems Plan and the recently adopted 2019 Riverfront Connector Plan, the city could impose fees on the developer that could help pay for needed upgrades to those intersections, Graichen explained.

Imposing such fees is common. In two recent cases of major development, like the approval of a 204-unit complex at McBride and Matzen streets, formerly known as Violette's Villa, the overall traffic impact fee is a "drop in the bucket" compared to the overall project costs, he added.

The city of St. Helens recently completed a housing needs analysis that outlined the need for more market-rate rentals in the next 20 years to meet expected population growth. This type of development addresses a huge component of that need, Graichen explained.

A number of other housing units in proposed subdivisions are also in the works throughout the city, Graichen added, including subdivisions with anywhere from 10 to 78 lots proposed at six different locations. The housing needs analysis, which was adopted by the city earlier this year, indicated that about 500 permits for housing units were in progress.


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