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Phoenix rebuild going strong

Planning and rebuilding of residences lost to the Sept. 8 Almeda fire is strong across all housing types in Phoenix with 125 building permits issued as of March 25.

“So far the indications are that we are going to have a pretty high level of rebuilding in all categories,” said Joe Slaughter, community and economic development director.

Residences lost included 116 single-family homes, 150 multifamily units and 284 manufactured homes in three parks. Twenty RVs were also lost at one site.

Ron Kroy checks out the construction progress of his home on Brandon Drive in Phoenix. file photo

Roofs are in place and siding is going up on rebuilds in the Barnum subdivision area, Mayor Terry Baker reported. The area is in the northwest portion of town around North Rose Street.

Barnum had the biggest loss of single-family residences in the city with 84 houses destroyed. So far, demolition permits have been issued for 60 of the lots. Building permit requests have totaled 39 for the area, with 32 of those issued as of Thursday.

Samuel Lane and Samuel Lane Loop, also in the northwest area, saw 24 homes destroyed. Demolition permits have been issued for 21 of the sites. There have been 10 applications for new building permits, and six have been approved.

The other eight single-family homes lost in the fire were scatted in various areas of town, including Church Street. The city lost 116 single-family homes in all, and 84 of those have sought demolition permits.

For single-family residences, some rebuilds are a little bit bigger and some are a little bit smaller than the previous structures, Slaughter said.

Demolition permits have been issued for all but 12 of the 150 multifamily units that were destroyed by the fire. Requests to rebuild 64 of the units have been received, and permits had been issued for 48 of those by Thursday.

Permits have been granted or sought for three complexes in the Cheryl Lane area totaling 64 residential units. Separate apartment buildings on North Rose Street, North Main and Dano Drive totaling 74 units have been issued demolition permits.

All three manufactured home parks impacted by the fire have demolition permits. All 210 homes were lost in Oak Ridge, formerly Bear Lake Estates. Some homes were untouched in Creekside Estates, where 38 burned, and in Greenway Village, where 36 were lost.

“All three of the parks are doing everything they can to be rebuilt,” said Slaughter. Mostly they will be rebuilt as they were, but Oak Ridge is doing some work on water lines, electrical service and parking.

Manufactured homes require permits from the city for setup and hookup to sewer and water connections. Greenway will have individual homeowners come in to get permits as they secure homes. Oakridge management will handle securing of the permits there. Oakridge will also be rebuilding the clubhouse, pool and a maintenance shop. Creekside is rebuilding its clubhouse.

Changes to zoning codes have been made to facilitate the residential rebuilding efforts.

Provisions in the code that allowed homeowner to rebuild as they were before without having to meet new codes have been expanded to multifamily housing. Without that, some properties might have needed to meet new standards on storm water retention, landscaping and parking, which could have prevented building the same number of units.

In November, Phoenix City Council approved changes to setback requirements that could have prevented some burned-out homeowners from rebuilding on the same footprint.

Changes were made to the code governing additional dwelling units on SFR properties. Any ADU can be up to 800 feet, where previously they were limited to a maximum of 800 square feet or 50% of the primary home size. No permits have been issued for new ADUs so far, although some lost in the fire are being rebuilt.

In December, changes governing the Commercial-Highway Zone west of Interstate 5, primarily along Main Street, were made to allow multifamily residences in that area. The change has led to a developer talking with the city about at 50-plus-unit multifamily complex in that area, said Slaughter.

Phoenix’s Urban Renewal Agency on March 15 approved sale of its land at 4345 S. Pacific Highway to the Jackson County Housing Authority. That could lead to development of low-income housing.

The authority is also trying to purchase land adjacent to the sale property, said Baker. Individuals in that area who lost residences when the Frontier Lodge Apartments and the Dun Rov’n RV park burned might be served if low-income housing is built, he said.

“If we can end up with more housing than we started with, that would be a pretty good deal for us,” said Slaughter.

People are asking where can they build in Phoenix, Slaughter said, but right now there’s nowhere to point them to for residential developments. It was a problem before the fire, but the city has been working for over six years to add land to its urban growth boundary, and that process is moving forward.

The town’s Planning Commission has approved applying for expansion of the UGB in two areas, and the City Council will consider approving an application that then goes to the county and the state.

“We hope to have it expanded by the end of the year. That’s our goal,” said Slaughter. Once the land is in the UGB, it could then be annexed into the city to allow for building.

One of the areas, PH-5, covers over 450 acres on both sides of North Phoenix Road. It is designated for employment zone development but would include 40 acres for residential expansion.

A second area, PH-3, lies between the north city limits and Medford’s UGB surrounding Highway 99 and includes the most residences and buildings destroyed by the Almeda fire on unincorporated land. Annexation of that area would allow Phoenix to assist with rebuilding efforts, Slaughter said.

Prior to the fire, Slaughter was the only employee in community development, working half time. He now works full time and there is a full-time building, planning and permit aide. In addition, former Talent Community Development Director Zac Moody is working half-time. Northwest Code Professionals of Eugene provides approval of building plans and inspectors to check on construction under a contract.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.