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

Detroit compromises on RV ordinance

After a lengthy and polarizing public process, the city of Detroit has approved a new building code.

Acting at its Tuesday meeting at the Detroit Community Center, the City Council voted 5-2 in favor of the code update, which has been in the works since November 2021 and is designed to help guide city development in a post-wildfire environment.

The key bone of contention was a section that limited the number of RVs that could be placed on a residential lot. A compromise approach led by councilors Denny Nielsen and Tim Luke paved the way for final approval of the new code.

Nielsen and Luke both favored adding the possibility of a third RV if certain conditions were met. The code as originally written limited property owners to one RV year-round and a second seasonally, from April 1 through Oct. 31.

The third RV provision will require a conditional use permit and will be limited to lots of greater than 10,000 square feet. 

Although Nielsen and Luke agreed on the permit process, the two differed on the lot size component. Nielsen favored the 10,000 minimum, while Luke called for 5,000. Councilors supported Nielsen’s approach in the same 5-2 coalition that approved the overall package.

Voting with Nielsen were councilors Michele Tesdal, Todd Smith, Eric Page and Mayor Jim Trett. Luke was joined by Councilor Greg Sheppard in voting no.

Tuesday’s meeting was far more sedate than its July 11 and Aug. 8 predecessors, which featured standing-room-only crowds and occasional boisterousness as councilors heard public testimony from approximately three dozen people during the two sessions. A strong majority of those testifying opposed the RV restrictions.

Dozens of community members at all three meetings wore light blue T-shirts that featured an image of a travel trailer amid language that cited the “Spirit of Detroit,” “Long Live Tradition” and advocated “Lake, Sun, Family, Fun and RVS.”

The RV debate has proven to be divisive. Residents noted in public testimony that some neighbors no longer speak to each other, as well as more confrontational encounters.

The new code includes standards on accessory dwelling units (ADUs), setbacks, driveway aprons, vehicle and parking standards, metal roofs, airbnbs, extensions and exemptions and adds new definitions and clarifies language throughout, but the lone piece that drew a strong community response was the RV limitation.

The code work was led by temporary city planner McRae Carmichael of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments. City Attorney Marc Shipman also addressed some language issues and assisted councilors with the complicated motions the RV ordinance required.

In other action, the council unanimously approved spending approximately $78,000 for a state-of-the-art audio visual system for council meetings. Nielsen, who spearheaded the project, noted that “it should be abundantly clear that we have a woefully inadequate audio-visual system.”

Indeed, there were issues with community members being able to hear the discussion during all three sessions on the building code.

Hear No Evil of Salem submitted the lone qualifying bid and will handle the work. No timetable on installation was available.

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