Gearhart constraints

Oceanfront, flood plain, tsunami inundation zone and wetlands will determine the city’s future growth.

Gearhart’s buildable land inventory is significantly less than Clatsop County’s 2018 housing study indicated, a new study reports.

Gearhart officials went back to the authors, Matt Hastie and Andrew Parish, of Angelo Planning Group, to refine the city’s buildable lands inventory and found the building capacity had shrunk by more than 45%, from a projected 701 units in the 2018 report to the potential for 381 new lots on 100 buildable acres in the revised study.

If that capacity is reached, Gearhart could face the need to expand its urban growth boundary.

“This is really a basis for our housing element and urban growth boundary location in the event that we ever need to expand,” City Planner Carole Connell said at last Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The building and land analysis, approved in March and delivered at a cost of about $12,000, used statewide guidelines to identify buildable lands along with Portland State University population projections over a period of time as a basis of future estimates, Connell said.

The updated report reflects a more detailed look at unconstrained vacant land in Gearhart, including additional development that has occurred since 2018, Hastie said. . The report estimates available and potentially available land by acreage and zoning to determine housing capacity by number and type of units.

Among findings, the capacity for new housing in Gearhart is impacted by constraints including natural resource and hazard areas, conservation areas and lack of a community wastewater treatment system.

For example, guidelines indicate 16 housing units may be placed on a 1-acre lot in a high density residential zone, but land in the same zone relying on Gearhart’s septic systems can only site 10 units per acre.

About two-thirds of the capacity for future residential development is on land within the R-1 or low-density residential zoning designation.

About three-quarters of the capacity for future residential development is on vacant lots, while one quarter is on lots with some existing development.

The new study does not factor in second homes.

Forecasting second-home demand is “a little more tricky,” Connell said, because of a lack of Department of Land Conservation and Development standards.

Projected future growth in Gearhart is based in large part on historical trends over the previous 20 years, the study’s authors report. The city should continue to coordinate with Portland State University’s Population Research Center in future forecast updates and ensure that changing development trends are factored in.

Cities are required to maintain a 20-year supply of land to accommodate future projected growth for housing and other land needs, Hastie said. If the city finds that it does not have enough land to meet its long-term need, it potentially would need to expand its urban growth boundary.

“However, it would need to go through a number of other steps first,” Hastie said. “The city would not want or need to wait until capacity is exhausted, but at the point it falls below a 20-year supply.”

The city will be watching the numbers, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.

“I think it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this information in the short-term basis and make updates in the future,” he said. “We are about to go through a census. I think we should keep our eyes on it and have conversations going forward.”

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