Cottage housing schedule double-checked

  • Brooke Fisher<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:38am

SHORELINE — With the start of the New Year, Council members barely wasted a second before discussing the timeline to assess cottage housing.

Apparently, they saved the date.

City Council members began fine-tuning the schedule to assess cottage housing developments in the city, which are currently not permitted after a six-month long emergency moratorium was adopted on Aug. 23.

“I look forward to this process,” Council member Maggie Fimia said. “I think what we might end up with is an active process with neighborhoods.”

The Council adopted the moratorium with the intent that staff would develop a program and process to address the somewhat controversial issue of cottage housing, with potential amendments to the Development Code.

Planning director Tim Stewart described the timeline that staff had developed, which includes updating a survey and report on cottage housing regulations in January, organizing a workshop for community members in February, a Planning Commission public hearing in March and Council review and action in April.

Stewart said the moratorium will likely be extended on Jan. 29, if approved by the Council.

“It is an aggressive schedule,” Stewart said. “But it is important.”

According to the staff report, problems regarding cottage housing that have been articulated by residents include changing the character of neighborhoods, the size of the developments, density, distance between developments, off-site parking, traffic and growth management requirements.

Since 2003, three cottage housing projects have been constructed, including the Ashworth Cottages on N. 183rd Street and Ashworth Ave. N., the Reserve Cottages on 15th Avenue NW and Hopper Cottages on NW 195th Street and Eighth Avenue NW.

The moratorium comes specifically after public concern arose from neighbors in the 500-foot vicinity of property in the 19100 block of Eighth Avenue NW, which is targeted for a proposed development of 16 cottage-style houses on a 1.38-acre site. Neighbors overwhelmingly pointed out that such a development would not adhere to the character of the neighborhood, with a higher density and lower quality of housing.

Resident Bronston Kenney said he did not support the idea of cottage housing in the city and asked the Council if the schedule was so aggressive, why the moratorium was not being extended a full six-months. He also wondered if the study group would consist of neighbors who live in the immediate area of the proposed cottage housing, or residents of the city in general.

Stewart responded that the schedule was so aggressive because he has heard from a number of people who would like to have an immediate decision. Regarding the study group, he said 125 letters were sent to residents, and people have asked to be added to the list.

“I would prefer that the group be balanced,” Stewart said, “so the city can find common ground.”

Twenty-year resident Bob Niskanen complimented staff on establishing the schedule, but questioned the size of the project and said he doubted it would be completed by staff’s estimated date.

“This will not be done by May 1,” Niskanen said. “I think there are developers waiting for that date.”

Council member Paul Grace also questioned the intended timeline of the project completion. He said it was too ambitious a schedule and suggested that council members tour cottage housing sites in the next few weeks, rather than in April.

Council member Bob Ransom also supported touring various sites at an earlier date.

“I also feel a need to tour early,” Ransom said. “We need to be more involved in the beginning.”

Council member Maggie Fimia said she supports the concept of cottage housing, but expects it to be restricted to a higher degree. Fimia agreed that the Council needed to be involved much sooner in the process, and suggested having open workshops with the public in order to outline specific issues.

City manager Steve Burkett suggested that Fimia submit a proposal to the Council in writing before the next meeting.

Currently, cottage housing requires a Conditional Use Permit in areas zoned R-4 and R-6, and specific regulations for cottage housing are identified in the Shoreline Development Code, which include restrictions on the number of homes, setbacks, height limits, open space, floor area, building cluster, porch size and parking.

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