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North Bend home plans streaming in

Applications for new housing developments have already flowed into North Bend’s planning department following the city’s partial lift of its decade-long building moratorium.

In 1999, the city entered moratorium after exceeding its water rights allowance. This summer, the Washington State Department of Ecology issued a new water rights certificate granting North Bend enough capacity to sustain the city until at least 2050.

Though the city won’t be able to end the moratorium completely until mitigation water flows — and that’s not expected to happen until early 2009 — the city council voted last month to start accepting land use applications.

‘Cottage’ homes

The first submittals came from locally based John Day Homes, which hopes to build three new residential communities, starting with a neighborhood of 68 “cottage” homes, in recently annexed areas on the east side of town.

Three-quarters of the homes in the “Rang er Station” cottage community, located next to Torguson Park, will be under 1,200 square feet, while the remaining quarter will be 1,600 square feet, company president John Day said.

Day has already heard from empty nesters, young couples and singles interested in the homes, which he said will be priced in the low $300,000s.

John Day Homes bought the Ranger Station property in 2005, when it was still part of unincorporated King County. Day hopes to begin construction in early 2010, and open up the first round of homes in January of 2011.

John Day Homes has never built cottage houses, which are designed to be more affordable than larger single-family homes.

“This is a totally new venture for us,” Day said, but added that his architect, Hackworth Group, has experience in the arena.

Day said the “nicely detailed,” Craftsman-style homes with steep pitched roofs will be “small but high quality, as opposed to small and cheap.”

His company also plans to break ground in 2010 on two communities of larger homes off of Maloney Grove. Prices on those houses will start in the low $600,000s. Property owner Byron Moore has also submitted a pre-application review for platting on a 121-lot subdivision at Silver Creek on a former pig farm.

Slow growth

Day said he’s not anxious to start construction in the midst of uncertain economic times, but is optimistic that there will be demand for the homes by the time they’re built.

“Times will change. When they do, some people will want smaller homes,” he said.

He also thinks the economic conditions will lead to slow growth that will be good for the city in the long run.

If the moratorium had ended during a stronger economy, other developers “would have slammed up more houses than you can imagine, and we’d have all kinds of problems,” Day said.

In this economy, Day predicts that fewer than 500 homes will be built in the area over the next decade.

Gina Estep, North Bend’s community and economic development director, said slower growth would allow the city “to take it at a pace that is more amenable to staffing.”

Going slow helps the city ensure the quality of work, she said, and re-establish the development processes that have not been utilized for a decade.

Estep anticipated her office would receive at least two more platting applications in 2009: one for 140 units on Maloney from Conner Homes, and another from Heartland LLC for a 45-unit townhome project and 55 single-family homes at Ribary Way.

“There’s been a pent-up demand” for residential development, she said. But because the platting process takes time, “it will be a year before we see the infrastructure being built.”

Downtown

redevelopment

Estep added that she’s also heard “quite a bit of interest in downtown redevelopment.”

She said a local business owner is interested in constructing a mixed-use building at the intersection of Sydney Avenue North and Highway 202.

“That would be a great project – kind of a gateway into North Bend from Snoqualmie,” she said.

George Wyrsch is looking to put in retail at the Espresso Time site on North Bend Way next year or in 2010, Estep said.

And the Park and Ride lot near the Pour House Bar & Grill on North Bend Way is moving forward. That development will bring the sidewalk, street trees and other amenities northwest toward the bridge over the South Fork River.

“I see the gateways of our town starting to form,” Estep said.

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