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Cottage housing a zoning concern

For new housing to be more affordable - and still turn a profit for developers - it must be made smaller and packed more tightly together. The North Bend City Council is proposing changes to its zoning code to allow "cottage housing" that would double the allowed density in stretches of the city flanking Thrasher Avenue in a swath parallel to North Bend Way.

However, with the increased housing comes increased traffic. Therein lies the rub.

The homes along Thrasher Avenue now are in a quiet residential neighborhood, said Councilmember Jonathan Rosen. Allowing cottage housing nearby will change the character of the area, he said.

"I don't think it's right to do that to the people who live there," Rosen said.

Mayor Ken Hearing suggested incorporating a buffer area of four houses per acre - rather than the six to 10 houses per acre for cottage zoning - between existing homes and the new zoning designation area. He also suggested requiring all access be via North Bend Way rather than Thrasher Avenue.

Both suggestions were first proposed by area residents at a public hearing Aug. 1.

Though council members warmed to the idea of a buffer area, access only via North Bend Way would not be possible for all of the parcels proposed for cottage zoning.

"It depends on who builds first," said Ron Garrow, North Bend's public works director.

Whatever happens, Thrasher needs to be improved, Hearing said. The road is insufficient to handle traffic, especially if other housing is added in a large area zoned for residential development at the end of the current road.

"We need to improve Thrasher," Councilmember Chris Garcia said.

They left that discussion for a later date, but agreed to add a buffer of less-dense zoning between existing homes and the proposed cottage zoning. The issue will next be addressed at the City Council's Sept. 19 meeting.

Council members also discussed a request to rezone 10.4 acres of a 32-acre property along Interstate 90 at North Bend Boulevard as high-density residential. That allows 45 townhouses to be built on the parcel. Forty-five single-family homes would be built on the rest of the property, located next to the Forster Woods development.

Council members had no problem with the request, but wanted to make sure that if the density is increased, it wouldn't allow the builder or a future owner to build more than the 45 proposed townhomes if plans change.

Steve Walker, on behalf of the developer, said state-mandated restrictions required because of the steep slope of the terrain would limit any builder from putting in more structures than what's proposed.

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