News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Large subdivision planned for Mill City

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The largest post-fire development in the Santiam Canyon is moving forward.

Santiam Meadows, which at buildout likely will contain up to 66 units, is planned for 15 acres of land just south of Highway 22 in Mill City.

The project is fueled by a collaboration between Mill City, Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), Marion County and several grant-writing agencies. And although tough questions remain to be answered concerning the project, officials sound confident that the subdivision will become a reality.

OHCS, the state’s housing agency, provided a grant to pay for the land purchase. Marion County identified the site, negotiated the purchase and is working with a consultant on an infrastructure site plan. 

Grants, one for $18 to 20 million to take care of site development and a $300 million federal disaster recovery community development block grant, hopefully will take organizers the rest of the way. The $300M grant might be available as soon as this spring, said Marion County officials.

“Currently, we have around 300 wildfire-affected households in Marion County who don’t have a place to call home,” said Marion County Commissioner Danielle Bethell, a key figure in the housing plan. 

“This money is not just going to purchase land, it’s going to give us the opportunity to create affordable, long-term housing that works for this community that was devastated by the wildfires.”

The Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires on Labor Day weekend in 2020 scorched 400,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,500 structures and virtually leveled Detroit and Gates, with Mill City, Idanha and Lyons suffering moderate to extensive damage. Five people were killed.

One goal for the new housing is to make it affordable.

Delia Hernandez of OHCS noted that who ultimately purchases the units “is to be determined, but OHCS participation requires that a significant proportion be made available to low- and moderate-income individuals.”

The current plan calls for 59 of the units to be single family homes, a combination of 3-bedroom, 2-bath and 4-bedroom, 2-bath, with seven duplexes. The acreage currently is mostly pasture and includes one parcel that had a home that burned in the wildfires, said Mill City Mayor Tim Kirsch.  

The mayor added that “the city is not involved with the development at this time other than the usual planning process. We are working to expand sewer capacity, (which) is needed to support all potential developments throughout the city.”

The North Santiam Sewer Authority, working with $50 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, is planning a four-city sewer system that would connect Mill City, Gates, Detroit and Idanha. The project is years away, perhaps to at least 2026 for the Mill City-Gates phase and 2027 or beyond for the Detroit-Idanha piece.

The key for Santiam Meadows is to make sure the sewer piece is in place so that folks can start moving into the houses. No timeline is available yet for the start of construction at or completion of Santiam Meadows.

The subdivision would be built in accordance with the Mill City development code and would produce new street access to the west side of Mill City off Highway 22 as well as add streets, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. 

The land for Santiam Meadows is located south and west of the 76 gas station at 250 NW Ninth Ave. An additional parcel between the Santiam Meadows plots has been set aside for Mill City’s Greenlight development, which is planned to include 54 apartments and/or townhouses on the 4.3-acre parcel  

Greenlight will benefit from the same infrastructure improvements as Santiam Meadows. Paying for and building that infrastructure in advance with county funds will bring down the costs of the homes because the builder would not have to include those items in the overall development package.

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