By Aaron West

The Bulletin

Prineville is turning industrial property into residential land in an effort to address its housing crunch.

City councilors voted last week to rezone 33 acres of vacant industrial property, located about a mile north of downtown Prineville, for residential development. The rezoning is part of a plan by development company Smith Landing LLC to build a 100-space RV park later this year, if the city’s planning commission votes to approve the project at its meeting next month.

The RV park would initially serve as a temporary housing site for workers who are assigned to two data center construction projects in Prineville. After two years, the plan is to expand the park to about 160 spaces and open it up to the public for housing.

“In terms of worker housing and affordable housing, there’s significant pressure on those markets,” said Prineville Planning Director Phil Stenbeck, who last summer helped oversee a city code amendment that made the project possible.

That code amendment allows worker housing sites like the one Smith Landing LLC proposed to be constructed on areas that are designated for industrial purposes. It was proposed in response to concerns expressed by Rosendin Electric and Fortis Construction, two companies with workers assigned to the data center construction projects, that there was a shortage of worker housing in Prineville.

“As you know, the significant data center construction activity in Prineville is putting a strain on availability of short term, temporary housing in Prineville,” a letter Fortis Construction sent the city in June stated. “The workforce that has come to the area that cannot find local housing options is now staying in locations as far away as Sisters and La Pine.”

Part of the code change required any proposed worker housing projects to include a plan for what would happen to the property after two years, which is how long the code allows any worker housing developments to operate. That’s where Smith Landing’s 160-space public RV Park, as well as this week’s residential rezoning approval, comes in.

“We designed the code to say you could have this approval of this 100-space worker site, but future site use is a requirement of this approval,” Stenbeck said.

The rezoning generated some concern from the state’s Land Conservation and Development Commission. A letter the commission sent the city in November questioned what the economic impact would be of rezoning industrial land for residential purposes.

However, Stenbeck said this property, as well as three others around town, had been previously identified in the city’s 2007 comprehensive plan as land that had been inappropriately zoned industrial because they neighbored residential areas.

“The idea of building industrial next to a residential area — you get a lot of neighbor issues,” Stenbeck said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,