Planning Commission mulls cottage housing

The North Bend Planning Commission discussed a cottage housing provision after a brief public hearing Oct. 26. The suggested changes to the new zoning designation are meant to help the city meet state requirements for affordable housing by allowing developers to build small, tightly-packed homes near downtown.

The provision must be approved by the North Bend City Council before it becomes law. The City Council adopted cottage housing zoning Sept. 19 for an area along North Bend Way east of the downtown core. The Oct. 26 public hearing was for proposed language changes to the adopted code.

Gina Estep, community and economic development director, said the revisions were designed to provide flexibility for developers while encouraging attractive housing. To keep the homes affordable, she recommended imposing maximum size limits on the homes that could be built.

After debate, the commission decided on keeping Estep's recommendation to limit cottage homes to 1,200 square feet for 75 percent of the dwellings in a development with 25 percent of the homes allowed to reach 1,500 square feet. The size would include an attached garage if one were built, but the code also carries provisions to allow community garage parking or a detached garage on larger parcels.

Most other Washington cities with cottage housing limit home sizes to 975 square feet, but they don't include provisions for attached garages, Estep said.

Joe Jaech of North Bend, who owns cottage-zoned property, suggested exempting the garage space from the size limitations.

"This size home needs a garage for storage," he said, noting parking also would be at a premium.

However, by exempting a garage, the homes would approach a normal-sized single-family home and would no longer be considered affordable housing, said commission member Alan Gothelf.

Gothelf also worried that a provision to allow a small one-bedroom or efficiency apartment to be built above a detached garage on larger parcels would increase the density too much.

"We're increasing the density in that area quite a bit and it might be more dense than we envision," he said.

Gothelf said he was concerned about the extra demand for on-street parking, but was relieved to learn that any parcel with an apartment unit would also have to provide an additional parking space, either on site or in a designated off-street parking area.

After making minor clarifications, the commission determined to recommend that the City Council adopt the revised changes after they are written in a final draft. They will meet Oct. 9 to vote on the final draft, which will be sent to the City Council Nov. 21 for possible adoption.

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