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Roseburg Planning Commission recommends changes to create new housing options

New kinds of apartments may be coming to Roseburg as the city continues to explore ways to create more housing.

Community Development Director Stuart Cowie presented the possibility of changing city code to allow dormitory-style apartments and “accessory dwelling units” at the Roseburg Planning Commission meeting Monday.

The city was recently approached by a local property owner who is interested in making that kind of housing available. The plan comes as the regional housing shortage persists, particularly for low-income people.

Accessory dwelling units are “interior, attached, or detached residential structures (i. e. granny flats, in-law suites),” according to the meeting agenda. The dormitory-style apartments — or “single occupancy units” — could be marketed toward Umpqua Community College students from out-of-town and others who struggle to find housing, Cowie said during an interview.

Magnus Johannesson, who addressed the commission on Monday, said he is interested in turning the second and third floors of his building on Southeast Washington Avenue between Jackson Street and Main Street into dormitory-style apartments. He is also considering doing the same at his other building on Southeast Oak Avenue between southeast Main Street and southeast Kane Street, which currently has vacant upper floors.

The building on Washington Avenue was constructed in the late 19th century and originally served as a hotel, Cowie said. It has single rooms with sinks on the walls as well as communal bathrooms and kitchens similar to a university dormitory, he said. But the rooms on the second and third floors have been vacant since 1976.

“When you walk in, it’s kind of like going back in time,” Cowie said about the inside of the old hotel.

Johannesson said he is already halfway through the renovations, which include refinishing the original flooring and redoing the building’s electrical and plumbing systems.

The city would have to change city code to make the proposed kind of housing available.

“It’s to be able to provide some different housing opportunities especially in existing buildings that kind of operated under that type of style at one point,” Cowie said. “If somebody wanted to revamp that building or refurbish it, to be able to get a restroom into every single unit, it would just be so cost prohibitive that it probably wouldn’t pencil out for someone.”

The dormitory-style apartments would need to be at least 100 square feet or 85 square feet if they were legally constructed prior to the code changes. Johannesson said that the rooms in his building are at least 120 square feet.

“Eighty-five square feet, boy that’s pretty tiny,” said Commissioner Kerry Atherton after inquiring about the size of the rooms in Johannesson’s buildings.

The changes would only apply to buildings within the central business district of the city because the city wants to focus on downtown buildings with vacant upper floors, according to Cowie.

Property owners would need to make one off-street parking space available per unit within 300 feet of the building. Johannesson said he plans to rent parking spaces in parking structures downtown.

Commissioner Victoria Hawks asked Cowie how the apartments would comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Cowie said that the buildings would need to comply with ADA unless the county building official exempted them. Johannesson said that his building on Washington Avenue wouldn’t be able to become ADA compliant, but the building on Oak Avenue would.

The city is using a code model from the Department of Land Conservation and Development to remove developmental or cost-prohibitive barriers to developers. Cowie said his department has also taken ideas from Portland’s code criteria. Following the passage of House Bill 2007, cities across Oregon made accessory dwelling units and single occupancy units an option.

Cowie said even though it would be a small impact on the larger housing crisis, the changes are part of the city’s effort to create more diverse housing options.

“We’ve had lots of discussions with UCC in regards to their housing needs,” Cowie added.

The college doesn’t provide students with on-campus housing. Most students already live in the area when they begin classes, but with the recent addition of track, baseball and other sports programs, the college is beginning to attract athletes from out of town, said UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson.

“Anybody coming to UCC from out of the district is going to face a challenge with housing,” Jackson said. “Anything that would help give us some opportunities to have additional housing for our students would be outstanding.”

Johannesson said he has contacted UCC about marketing the apartments to UCC students. He said he hopes to have 20 to 34 units available by this fall.

The planning commission unanimously voted to recommend the changes to the council at its Feb. 11 meeting.

New gymnasium marks new era for Lookingglass school

It was the beginning of a new era for the Lookingglass community Monday night, as the Lookingglass School’s new gymnasium, library and cafeteria were officially opened to replace the historic building that was destroyed by fire on the night of Dec. 26, 2016.

An overflow crowd of nearly 200 people filled the new bleachers and lined the doors from outside the brightly lit gym. Across its shiny hardwood floor, Lookingglass Elementary School Principal Oriole Inkster stood in front of the school’s new stage and welcomed visitors along with a row of dignitaries. It was the first day back to school after the long Christmas break, for students in the district.

The school’s nearly 200 students had physical education classes in the old gym, and community groups borrowed it for sporting events and other events, and regular roller skating activities were held in the gym.

The school lost more than just its gymnasium space though. The building served as the school’s cafeteria, and housed the library. All its books burned, as did the school’s band instruments.

The celebration, said Inkster, was to honor those who made the new building a reality. Inkster recognized people from the Winston Dillard School Board and administration, the contractors that built the new structure, and she praised the firefighters for saving the rest of the school.

“They stood on top of the classroom building and they saved the building, and there’s bubbled paint and cracked windows up there to prove how close it came,” Inkster said. “So we’re very grateful to them that we still have the classrooms.”

After the gym, which was built in 1939, burned down, it was a struggle to get rebuilt. But a swell of support from the community convinced the Winston Dillard School Board to go ahead with the project. It was built entirely with the insurance money on an “as was” basis. If it was there before the fire, it would be replaced. The old building didn’t have air conditioning, so neither does the new one, but the electrical system that was long outdated, was modernized, and restrooms upgraded.

One teacher told about a student who went into the restroom to wash her hands and asked, “How does this thing work?” The teacher said “Just wave your hand in front of it,” and the student yelled, “It’s magic!”

Inkster said the builders all had a personal interest in the community including Todd Construction, which is based in Portland but was previously headquartered in Roseburg. The project superintendent, Joe Pynch, still lives in Roseburg.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “And every contractor that worked on this building gave us more than our money’s worth.”

Teachers were thrilled with the new building and all of the improvements that were made.

“It’s absolutely an upgrade, it’s nice because everything is updated and state of the art,” said second-grade teacher Kristal Plikat.

Emily Ledbetter, who has taught first-grade for 10 years at Lookingglass and also attended the school, said it was sad to see the old one go.

“It’s mixed feelings, I’m really excited about,” she said. “I love the feeling of community and feeling of love that’s in this gym because it was really a community effort from the smallest kindergartner to the biggest corporation. But that was the old gym, and I guess it’s because memories haven’t been made here yet.”

Tickets were sold for a chance to make the first basket on the new basketball court, and three fifth-graders won the chance.

It took a few shots, but Reese Willis finally made the first one and was rewarded by the roar of the crowd and a special basketball with the inscription saying that he made the first basket in the new gym.

“It was, like, really cool because I was the first one to do it, and there’s going to be other people, but I’m going to be famous,” a thrilled Willis said.

Librarian Cindy Medley was thrilled with the new library and was excited that the student and teachers could get back to a little more normalcy.

“It’s light, airy, it’s got color to it and the kids love coming down here,” Medley said. “It’s beautiful and it’s so fortunate for the kids to be able to have something to come to and enjoy for recesses and classroom time.

But now it’s time for the community to say good-bye to the old building and start making new memories.

“We bid farewell to the old historic building and we start anew,” Inkster said.

Search still on for Winston woman missing for a month

There has been no sign of a Winston woman who has been missing for a month since she was last spotted in Sutherlin.

Deputies from the Douglas County Sheriff’s are still seeking information about the disappearance of Geraldine Donna Galer, 77, of Winston, who was last seen driving a gray 2002 GMC Safari Van with Oregon license plate YRC-203. Galer’s van had a spare tire on the rear passenger side.

The woman is described as 5-foot-4, 130 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes and was last known to be wearing a tan knit hat, a black jacket, red gloves, blue jeans and white tennis shoes.

Deputies said Galer may be suffering from a medical condition which causes confusion and an altered state of mind.

Galer was last seen on Dec. 8 at approximately 10:13 a.m. in the 800 block of Summit View Avenue, Sutherlin.

Brad O’Dell, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said Galer could be anywhere inside or outside of the county because she was in a vehicle.

“We really need the help of the community to be aware of this case and report any information to our office. We want to provide her loved ones with some answers,” O’Dell said.

Anyone with information may call the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at 541-440-4471.

Body found in car identified as missing Oakland man

A body found in a submerged vehicle in the Umpqua River in the Tyee area has been positively identified as Nicholas Zachary Julian Blum, 28, of Oakland who was reported missing Dec. 26, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office received a call about a vehicle in the river from a citizen who had been fishing Sunday on the Umpqua River near the 18000 block of Tyee Road.

Blum had previously been reported missing to the Sutherlin Police Department.

Brad O’Dell, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies found the vehicle on its top completely submerged in the river about 3 feet under the surface.

Marine deputies were able to access the vehicle by boat and secure it. The car was pulled out of the water and onto the shore by Roseburg Towing.

The vehicle was a 1995 Toyota Tercel registered to Blum.

The body was located inside the wrecked car and the Douglas County Medical Examiner’s Office made the positive identification.

Deputies said it appeared the vehicle was traveling east on Tyee Road when it left the roadway for an unknown reason. The car rolled down the embankment and into the river where the vehicle traveled approximately 300 feet downstream.

Sutherlin police said Blum had been missing since 5 p.m. Dec. 23, when he left his job at the McDonald’s in Sutherlin. He was not reported missing until three days later.

Police said Blum had told co-workers he was going to Coos Bay to see a friend.