A public hearing was held during the Nov. 9 Board of Josephine County Commissioners’ weekly business session concerning amendments to the JoCo Rural Land Development Code.
Deputy Community Development Director James Black joined the board to detail the amendments.
The sections sought to be amended were: Chapter 19.33 – Appeal of Decisions; Chapter 19.50 – Basic Provisions; Chapter 19.56 – Final Plats; Chapter 19.61 – Rural Residential Zones; Chapter 19.71 – Lot Size and Shape; and Chapter 19.73 – Fences, Walls and Screens.
A second reading is scheduled for Nov. 16.
“These changes went through the Rural Planning Commission on August 29, 2022,” Black said. “They approved all the amendments we have here today.”
Black added that changes made to Chapter 19.33 – Appeal of Decisions were designed to bring the county into compliance with state statutes regarding how remand hearings are executed.
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A sentence proposed to be added to the section on remand hearings would read: “If the remand hearing will involve the introduction of new evidence, any person may raise new issues which relate to the new evidence, arguments, testimony or criteria for decision-making which apply to the matter at issue.”
Previously, only persons or organizations that were parties to the higher appeal were granted this ability, and that will still be the case if no new evidence is introduced from the higher appeal.
Another notable change is the extension of tentative housing development plan deadlines from two years with the possibility of extending to five, to six years with the possibility of extending to 10.
Commissioner Darin Fowler remarked that a letter sent to the board pointed out that most Southern Oregon counties have a deadline of two years with the possibility of extending to five, prompting Black to explain why the extension is being adopted.
“In this economy, things are hard to do,” Black said. “Things are slowing down. We need more time to get these larger projects through.”
The deputy Community Development director went on to say that Oregon law allows a maximum of 10 years for a tentative housing development plan to be completed. “Ten years is as long as you can have a subdivision alive for; it’s how long it can exist,” said Black.
“However, we wanted to put a process in that would allow us to take a look at it, you know, six years is still a long time. A lot of the engineering stamps, a lot of those things would have expired on older projects. So we thought, well, what if we do six years and then provide two two-year time extensions.”
Fowler commented on the proposed amendment, “I appreciate our planning department being ahead of this this time. I know last time there was a recession a lot of developers… got affected by some of the short time that was on the city development in the city of Grants Pass and out in Cave Junction, so I appreciate this foresight to preserve some of that, especially in a housing crisis.”
The next discussion kicked off around a new proposed rule for sight-obscuring fences in front yards of residential properties. This new rule reads: “Sight-obscuring fences or walls may be placed in front yards provided such fences or walls do not exceed three and one-half feet in height.”
Previously no height limits were imposed for property line fences or walls. Board Chair Herman Baertschiger pointed out that the topic has always been “contentious.”
Black noted that the rule was lost when the Josephine County Code was codified, and Community Development had been seeking to reintroduce it.
“The concept here,” Black explained, “it’s about sight distance and being able to see cars, vehicles, pedestrians as you exit and come on to one’s property. At three and a half feet tall, a person can be sitting in their vehicle and see over the top and kind of get a good idea of if it’s clear to go or not.”
Baertschiger remarked, “It could be interesting to see what qualifies as the front of a property on some of these properties,” to which Black responded, “That is a challenge. It comes up.”
Other less significant proposed amendments included: family daycare dwellings are considered less than 16 children, up from 13; property line adjustments require a subdivision guarantee issued by a title insurance company; and any property sold or granted for state highway, county road, city street or other right of way purposes shall continue to be considered a single unit of land until the property is further subdivided or partitioned.