by Justin Aufdermauer
If you’re a regular reader of the Chamber Chatter, you know that we often write about all the events the Chamber has coming up or projects we have accomplished here. But the Chamber also has a number of long-term projects that require more lengthy solutions to complete.
These things take up so much time and never seem to end, and we don’t always remember to write about the work we’re doing while we are in the thick of it. I want to loop you, the community, in on the work we are doing with housing, homelessness, bioswales, signage and downtown renovations., because this work is extremely important, even if it’s got no easy answer.
Throughout the next few weeks, I will update you on our work in a series I like to call “Big tasks, lengthy solutions.” Let’s start this week with housing.
Back in 2019 we hired a Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) intern, Alex Jonas, to work with the City of Tillamook to adopt some housing policy changes. During his 12-month internship, Alex also wrote an Oregon Main Street Revitalization grant that was successful at obtaining $200,000 for four downtown apartments, and he began working with a development company to look for land for future housing projects.
Last week we received some frustrating news, when the City of Tillamook brought the Chamber up to speed on some major sewer and stormwater capacity issues that will make developing large-scale, multi-family housing much harder than we originally thought. In short, the sewer lines that service the areas in Tillamook with the most developable land are reaching capacity limits — and that’s before we talk about adding new housing.
The City explained that all sewer lines east of Miller Avenue — where most of the developable land is — run to a pump station on 12th Street, then head to the treatment plant. The lines running to and from the pump station are nearing capacity and are unable to take on additional load at this point in time.
To add on that, the aging sewer lines throughout the City have a major issue with stormwater infiltration coming mostly from broken residential laterals, manhole bases, and lines. Usually, the local treatment plant can run at about 20% capacity. However, when stormwater gets into the sewer system, the treatment plant must run at full capacity. Right now, with the high rate of infiltration, that is happening for most of the year. That means mean that while we should have ample capacity at the plant for future housing, we don’t actually, because the system isn’t running efficiently.
While that news was rough, we left the meeting with a plan to work with the City on obtaining a cost estimate for running a new line and pump east of downtown. Once we get that estimate, we’ll need to find the money to fund the project, an expense that the City budget cannot absorb right now. Funding will be the first step to moving forward with any large-scale, multi-family housing in Tillamook.
Beyond our work on large-scale, multi-family housing projects, the Chamber also focuses on smaller developments. (Although bigger developments will have a bigger impact on solving our housing shortage, we can’t put all our eggs in one basket that we might have to wait on months or years as the sewer improvements are made). As we work out how to prepare the City’s sewer system for big housing projects, we will continue to chip away at smaller developments to put professionals and families in homes now. The four downtown apartments that received the revitalization grant when Alex interned with us should be completed in 2022. We also know of a 20-plus unit complex that our development company currently has under planning review. If all goes as planned, that project will be able to tie into the 12th Street pump station without putting the sewer system over capacity. And in other exciting news, there has been a recent downtown property acquisition, and we are working with the property owner on plans for approximately 10 second-floor units. As we do with many other projects, the Chamber will assist the property owner as they seek funding assistance through the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant Program and the Tillamook Urban Renewal Agency.
So next time you ask yourself “Why is the housing shortage not being solved?” just know that there is a plethora of items that must be considered before developing. Public and private entities are working on them, but it’s not going as fast as any of us would like. Such is the way of big tasks with lengthy solutions.
(I will be back with another installment of the Big Tasks, Lengthy Solutions series in a few weeks. Have a topic you’re interested in hearing more about? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll see how I can work it in.)