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Noise Raising Neighbors' Ire

Griffin neighbors will ask city council to review zoning ordinance

MONMOUTH -- Several South Monmouth homeowners will ask city council next week to look at its residential zoning laws in hopes of reducing the noise, traffic problems and disruptive behavior they believe stems from an overabundance of renters in their neighborhood.

Specifically, the Griffin Estates Homeowner Occupied Association, which includes about 50 residents in the Griffin Estates subdivision, wants the city to alter the definition of "family" in its home zoning ordinance.

The proposed change would lower the number of allowable unrelated occupants in homes in single family-dwelling, low-density residential areas.

Association president Kathy Downey says that Griffin Estates was originally developed in 1997 as a low-density neighborhood for families interested in buying a home.

She said today, however, more than half of the 75 units in the area are used as rentals -- many for Western Oregon Univeristy students.

The results, Downey said, are crowded streets, large gatherings and aspects of high-density residential living in a neighborhood ill-equipped to handle it.

"This is a young population that's housing themselves in an area meant for families and children," she said. "They are living a different lifestyle altogether than a single family would."

Single-family dwellings are designed to be occupied by one "family," and the association wants the definition of what constitutes a family changed in Monmouth Zoning Ordinance 13.005.

For the purposes of renting or buying a home, the ordinance classifies a family as "an individual or two or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption." The definition also extends to "a group of not more than five persons not related by blood or marriage and living together in a dwelling."

"If you're going to rent to five unrelated people in one house, it's going to be all young people or students," said one member of the association, who spoke on a condition of anonymity.

Downey said the goal is to lower the number from five unrelated persons to three, with possible exemptions. The proposal only applies to single-family residential zones.

One result, she hopes, would be less overcrowding. Having to split the rent for a house between fewer people might persuade some to seek housing opurtunities outside of single-family residential areas.

"There is medium and high-density residential housing around Monmouth or closer to campus," she said. "There are places more conducive to where they are or what their need might be."

Richard Shields, association board member, believes several renters to one home increases traffic and makes parking in Griffin Estates next to impossible.

"It just gets too overcrowded," he said. "You've got single-family dwellings with five people in them, and each of them has a car."

He also said the high number of young renters creates an atmosphere prone to loud parties and large late-night gatherings.

"A lot of problems stem from people not even from the neighborhood," he said. "A lot of it is people who are self-invited to a renter's home in hopes of crashing a party or creating one.

"I try not to be anti-party, but when you're going to throw a party that runs past midnight every day of the week in a residential area, yes, I'm against it."

Shields said during one 10-day stretch in late September, eight parties that lasted well into the morning were thrown near his home. He also said on Sept. 27, he and other neighbors witnessed more than 100 people on South Monmouth Avenue walking and drinking in the middle of the street.

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