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County eyes properties for housing development

Clatsop County is looking to develop housing at foreclosed properties the county owns in several North Coast cities.

Monica Steele, assistant county manager, told members of Astoria’s Homelessness Solutions Task Force at a meeting Thursday that the county is talking with nonprofits and private developers to see what interest there might be to create various types of housing at a handful of county properties located within the city limits of Astoria, Warrenton and Seaside.

Plans are very much in the preliminary stages. Steele says the county will be talking with developers about some of the barriers to development that might exist at the properties.

There are reasons the properties went into foreclosure, Steele told KMUN, and one big reason may have been that the properties were not easily developed. There might be wetlands or a steep grade to address.

Also, Steele told homelessness task force members, each piece of property is subject to the rules and zoning ordinances of the city where it is located.

“So the county, though we own the properties, still has to work with the cities in regards to their zoning requirements and code compliance and all of that,” she said.

The county hired a consultant last year to start the process of looking at the properties. Steele told KMUN she anticipates a process similar to the one Astoria followed to solicit proposals from developers for that city’s downtown Heritage Square block.

But, Steele says, the county has also been watching how the Heritage Square process has unfolded.

Astoria city leaders agreed to enter into negotiations with Portland developer Edlen & Co. in February, but the company’s proposal to build workforce and affordable housing at Heritage Square has met some significant opposition and misinformation has spread online.

Steele says the county wants to be systematic in its approach and gather all the information needed before putting out a call for proposals from developers. Steele knows that any new building proposal, whether it’s for housing or a grocery store, can be complicated.

“It’s always somebody’s neighborhood,” she said.