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North Bend cottage housing now has size limits

To make sure North Bend meets the state's Growth Management Act requirements for affordable housing, the City Council made its new "cottage housing" designation more strict by imposing size limits.

The zoning code amendment adopted Dec. 5 requires 75 percent of a development in the areas of downtown North Bend zoned for cottage housing to be 1,200 square feet or smaller. The remaining 25 percent must be 1,600 square feet or smaller. Space for a garage is excluded from the measurement.

The size limits are smaller than the recommendations of the city's Planning Commission. The Planning Commission proposed Nov. 9 that the council require a minimum of 25 percent at 1,200 square feet; 50 percent at 1,600 square feet; and a maximum of 25 percent at 2,000 square feet, all excluding the garage.

"The top end [of the Planning Commission recommendation] was just unreasonable to us," said City Councilmember Dave Cook. "The idea of affordable housing is you have to keep it small."

At 2,000 square feet, the homes were too close in size to a regular single family home and would sell for close to $500,000 apiece rather than the target $350,000, Cook said.

"That's not our idea of affordable," he said.

Cook is the City Council's liaison to the Planning Commission. The city's Community and Economic Development Committee revised the Planning Commission's recommendations Nov. 16. the revised text was approved unanimously by the City Council Dec. 5.

The City Council adopted cottage housing zoning Sept. 19 for an area along North Bend Way east of the downtown core. North Bend Community and Economic Development Director Gina Estep, who started work the same day, recommended the city amend the ordinance to make sure it met the state's Growth Management requirements. 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.

North Bend's cottage housing provision allows for maximum flexibility for builders, while still adhering to the principal of smaller, more affordable homes, she said.

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