With a full agenda Monday, Roseburg City Council addressed issues related to housing and transportation.

City Council adopted changes to its vehicles for hire ordinance and background checks ordinance that may encourage Uber or Lyft to come to Roseburg.

Councilors also reviewed land use code changes that would allow developers to create dormitory style apartment units — or single room occupancy units — within the downtown district. Additionally, they reviewed code changes that would allow property owners to create and rent accessory dwelling units on properties where a home already exists.

If City Council adopts the changes at its next meeting, Magnus Johannesson, the owner of two vacant buildings in downtown Roseburg, said he would be able to make more than 40 dormitory style apartments available downtown. He plans to market the 120-square-foot units in his buildings on Southeast Washington Avenue and Southeast Oak Avenue to Umpqua Community College students.

The second and third floors of Johannesson’s two downtown buildings were originally constructed as hotels in the late 19th century. The rooms don’t have bathrooms or kitchens, but there are communal bathrooms and a kitchen on each floor. The code changes would allow the rooms to be used by up to two tenants.

The changes would align Roseburg’s code with state legislation that requires city’s to allow those types of housing units. The state legislation took effect last summer, but the city hasn’t removed its requirement that property owners obtain conditional land use permits to create such housing.

Before proceeding with a first reading of the proposed code changes, councilors heard arguments for and against the changes from audience members.

Property owner Bernie Woodard said he objected to the changes because developers would only be able to create dormitory style apartments in the downtown district, not throughout the whole city. He said he has been working for years to make several properties outside of downtown compliant with building codes with plans to market them to students.

“All those years of work, or several of the years of work, locating properties that do what we need to do, it seems like we’re being undercut by providing this single room occupancy,” Woodard said. “It’s an unfair competition.”

He also had concerns about the lack of hygiene requirements for the communal spaces in the dormitory style apartment buildings. He said he has had previous conversations with UCC, and he doesn’t think UCC would partner with property owners to house their students if buildings had “30 units on one floor with one bathroom and one kitchen.”

Woodard said the buildings he plans to market to students have one bathroom for every two to four students. Johannesson said there are 14 bathrooms in one building with 34 rooms, however.

Mayor Larry Rich asked Johannesson who would be responsible for cleaning the common areas of his buildings.

“I will have janitorial services every day,” Johannesson said.

Alyssa McConnel, the former director of the Downtown Roseburg Association, voiced concerns with parking if the city makes more housing available downtown.

The code changes would require Johannesson to make one parking space available within 500 feet of the building for every housing unit. The parking spaces would likely be rented in the downtown parking garage run by the DRA.

The parking garage was created so that downtown business owners could park there without removing street parking for customers, McConnel said. She added that many downtown business owners park on the streets downtown anyway.

“What I’m worried about is the fact that that is literally the only spot for any potential growth for business owners to comply or to park,” McConnel said.

Stuart Cowie, Roseburg Community Development director, said parking would likely be a limiting factor for any property owner interested in making dormitory style apartments available downtown.

After city councilors proceeded with a first reading of the housing code changes, they moved on to adopt changes to the city’s vehicles for hire and background check ordinances.

The changes mirror Medford’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance in an effort to encourage ride share services to come to Roseburg.

After the city adopted an ordinance to allow ride share services to operate in Roseburg this spring, Uber and Lyft said they wouldn’t come. They primarily objected to the city’s background check requirements, which were more extensive than the companies’.

With the adopted changes would make all required city background checks more like those of the ride share services — seven years in the past for both felonies and misdemeanors, with denial based on certain offenses such as sexual offenses and driving under the influence.

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

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