Dec. 24, 2019 — In the summer of 2018, the City of Florence completed a Housing Needs Analysis that showed Florence had a housing demand of more than 500 units.
“There’s certainly a need and a lot of pent up demand for people to move out of where they’re at and into higher-priced homes, so lower income earners can find housing,” City of Florence Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell said. “And we certainly have people that are unable to live here right now — to work or retire — because there aren’t enough homes.”
To help mitigate the growing housing issue, the city has been working diligently on attracting and approving new developments over the past year. From large scale plans such as the Sand Pine Ranch north of town, to small scale projects like Oak Commons near Oak Street, the city currently as at least 233 housing units proposed, with more on the way.
The hours city staff have spent on the projects have been in the hundreds, through various departments.
Before a project is even submitted to the city, “We have at least two or three meetings with the proposed developer before they submit an application, making sure they understand what they need,” FarleyCampbell said. “We have lots of code, everything down to how far apart the streetlights are spaced. There’s a lot of things that people don’t necessarily think about. How big of a pot a rhododendron is being planted in. How deep is a pipe being buried. It’s more than just looking at lot dimensions.”
But along with the projects the city has been working on developing, it has also been working on streamlining the entire process.
Throughout the year, the city’s Community and Economic Development Committee (CEDC), Planning Commission and staff partnered with 3J Consulting out of Beaverton in a thorough review of city codes. The result was a massive update to thousands of housing codes that make the process of building easier for the city and more attractive for developers. The codes, which were passed in November, went into effect last week.
With a host of developers coming to the city with housing opportunities, and a new streamlined process, it appears the city is making headway on the 500-home deficit it is facing.
However, all except a few projects are still in developmental stages, and FarleyCampbell stressed that anything can change. Still, the numbers “look promising,” she said. “I think it depends on if the economy holds out, whether the developers are able to get investors they need to get the projects started, and stay on schedule.”
To see how close the city is to reach its goal, the Siuslaw New created a list of housing developments in the region, where they’re located and how many homes are expected to be built.
Sand Pine Ranch (119 units)
The largest project is the Sand Pine Ranch Subdivision, located on Highway 101 just north of Fred Meyer. It would occupy the former location of Sand Master Park, which moved just south of that location earlier this year.
“It has the largest number of lots for a straight subdivision right now,” FarleyCampbell said.
The project was first proposed to the Florence Planning Commission in May 2019 and is described as 119 single-family lots that roll out over six phases. The first phase consists of 27 lots built by 2020, and phase two includes building 22 units by 2021.
According to the 600-plus page report presented by the city and developers, “The remaining phases containing 70 units are planned to be completed by 2025.”
As for the homes themselves, “They are looking to do manufactured homes with constructed garages,” FarleyCampbell said. “They were going to be double-wides, perhaps triple-wides.”
And it’s possible that there could be even more units planned.
“The lots are really large for their zone,” FarleyCampbell said, who did not know if the developers were looking to add more units. “Some of the lots are large because they need area for the sand mitigation until the dune is effectively covered up. They’ll be built up on a sand dune like most Florence residences are. They could certainly divide them and add duets. A duet is two dwellings on one lot, but the dwellings are attached. It saves construction cost.”
Cannery Station (42 units, plus 10 transitional cottages)
Located less than a mile south of Sand Pine Ranch is Cannery Station, located on Highway 101 just east of Fred Meyer.
The project is a mixed-used development that includes a 64-bed assisted living facility, 10 single-story transitional cottage units, a 42-unit, three-story apartment building, and two commercial structures.
Cannery Station has been in the works for years, before the Great Recession, which caused the project to be put on hold.
Throughout most of its planning phase, it was designed with a focus on seniors. But after learning of the region's housing needs, the developers stated a willingness to include multigenerational housing.
“They do recognize that it’s going to be hard to build this if you don’t have a place for your workers to live. I think they re-thought their business model,” FarleyCampbell said.
Fairway Estates (40 units)
Fairway Estates is a 40-lot single-family gated community located on Rhododendron Drive, just west of Florence Golf Links. The project has been in the works since at least 2005, and it is now open and ready for business.
“They have multiple building permits,” FarleyCampbell said. “City wide, we’ve issued 43 dwelling unit permits this year, and many of them were on Fairway estates. They certainly have a lot of development opportunities there, and they have several houses going in there.”
Oak Commons (16 units)
Oak Commons would be a 16-unit development of townhomes located just south of 32nd Street, between Highway 101 and Oak Street.
“This is a 26,640-square-foot project that is four buildings with four townhomes each,” FarleyCampbell said. “It will have 675 square feet on the ground, and 675 on the top floor. They all have attached garages.”
Hanson Mixed-Use (4 units)
In June, a smaller project for a 7,200 square foot mixed-use development was proposed by Florence resident Bob Hanson. Located south of Rite-Aid on 34th Street and west of Highway 101, the building would have retail space, industrial space and four apartments above.
DevNW (12 units)
Formerly known as the NEDCO development, the 12-home project will be located at 1424 Airport Road and built upon the previous Community Garden site.
This project is unique in how it works to bring affordable housing to the area. Unlike most projects, where a homebuyer purchases both the land and the home, the DevNW project only has homebuyers purchasing the home itself, but not the land. This decreases the prices significantly.
When the property was first introduced, the City of Florence donated land to DevNW, but the land has since been given back to the city, with DevNW still focusing on construction. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in January 2020.
Habitat for Humanity (unknown)
In April, Habitat’s Executive Director Janell Morgan spoke with Siuslaw News about a group of projects that would mirror the DevNW plans — smaller, affordable homes ranging from 900 to 1,400 square feet, built in cul-de-sacs.
Habitat was waiting for the zoning requirements to be updated in the recent code changes, and is working on multiple projects throughout the area, though no official word has been released on what the projects will look like.
“They’re certainly working hard,” FarleyCampbell said.
On Nov. 20, city employees released a proposed vision of property it owns on Quince Street, just across from the Florence Events Center, also run by the city. The city has been working on this project since 2018.
The goal is to “attract a 90-plus-room hotel or other similar sized lodging facility, with a preference for 100-plus room facilities as the anchor development for the site, with opportunities for the following ancillary developments.”
The ancillary goals of the project would include, but are not limited to, “Food/Beverage use(s) complementary to the lodging use including but not limited to restaurant, brewery, coffee, quick service or other similar development. Other residential facilities or mixed-use with particular focus on efforts to promote higher-density workforce house, including but not limited to townhomes, condominiums, cottage cluster-housing and live-above mixed-use units.”
All developments must be for-profit enterprises subject to property tax, and all proposals at the site must be financially viable and include funding sources.
The objectives of the plan are multiple, including increasing property values and transient room tax revenue, supporting the Florence Events Center, assisting in the development of the Siuslaw Estuary trail, increasing walkability of the area in conjunction with Historic Old Town and supplementing the area’s need for housing.
The city is still in its initial phases, which include seeking quotes from “economic development recruitment professional(s)/commercial real estate firm(s) to review staff’s preparation of a request for proposals and market request to potential development opportunities.”
And the plan could shift, particularly when it comes to the goals. The city notes, “Although the above are listed as the agency’s development goals for the site, the intention would be to consider all proposals for development opportunities. In addition, although the primary goal is to achieve a viable lodging facility proposal as the anchor business for the site, the agency will have the opportunity to select either more than one proposal and/or a proposal different than a lodging facility, should it be warranted and/or the uses be compatible.”
“There’s lots of opportunities,” FarleyCampbell said. “It’s got pretty generous zoning for mixed use, commercial, residential.”
FURA will also continue work on its multi-million-dollar ReVision project, which began work earlier in 2019. That project will create multiple gateways into Old Town, along with refinished streets, lighting and additional sidewalks.
FURA will also have an additional $200,000 on hand to continue projects to continue to beautify the district.
While there are multiple large projects in the works, there are always smaller projects that are being quietly developed throughout the city each year. For example, FarleyCampbell mentioned Stecher Buss of Advanced Construction, who is working on four units by Miller Park.
“It’s not large, but Stecher does small and mighty things,” she said.
And there’s projects that are in the works, but information hasn’t been released yet.
“We’ve talked with about five other different developers/owners that are looking to do something in the next year,” FarleyCampbell said. “They’re largish, not just one house. They’ll provide substantial housing. We’re looking forward to those hopefully coming through.”
The one thing that is still unknown is what the cost of homes will be. “I’m not sure everyone is going to find anything that can fit in the $200,000 price point, unless it’s a situation like DevNW where they’re a nonprofit and they’re not out to make money,” FarleyCampbell said. “They’ll have tools available to them that can offer a lower price point. The developers I’ve talked with, I don’t know if we’ll have any $200,000 new house lots.”
However, the new housing codes could either allow existing developers to build smaller, or newer developers to come in. And if they do, there is still ample land to develop.
In September, the city took ownership of undeveloped property off of Spruce Street, north of Munsel Lake Road. That property is in the existing Spruce Village neighborhood and was previously known as Spruce Village Phase 2.
“If there are developers that have any interest and want to put together a plan, then they’re certainly encouraged to do so,” FarleyCampbell said.
North of the Sand Pines Ranch, along Highway 101, sits two properties that could be developed as well. Any of these properties could be used for workforce housing.
“There’s surplus property, and if there’s nonprofits out there that want to make something with the city, we’re certainly willing to work with them,” FarleyCampbell said. “There’s always opportunity for development.”