Cottage-style housing could be coming soon to Kent despite a 4-3 vote by the City Council on Oct. 21 against a proposed ordinance that would allow developers to build as many as two housing-demonstration projects.
Council members who voted against the proposed ordinance asked city staff to revise the ordinance to allow fewer homes in denser neighborhoods as well as to require hearings, so that neighbors of such a development could be allowed to comment.
“Cottage housing has its place in Kent, but it has to be in the right zoning areas,” Councilman Ron Harmon said before voting against the ordinance. “I’d support it if there is a reduction in density and we modify the demonstration project.”
As it was proposed, the ordinance would have allowed up to 12 cottage home units per acre, in neighborhoods that are zoned for six homes per acre; or nine units in areas that are zoned for 4.5 homes per acre. The homes would be allowed only in single-family or multi-family residential zones.
Cottage-style housing developments feature small, detached single-family homes clustered around a common open space, with garages and parking located away from the homes.
Under the proposed ordinance, cottage homes in Kent would need to be 1,500 square feet or less. Carriage homes, a term describing a home that is built above above a garage, would need to be 800 square feet or less.
A revised ordinance could be coming back for Council consideration as soon as Nov. 18, said Katie Heinitz, city assistant planner, in a phone interview Friday.
Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said at Tuesday’s meeting she has pushed for the last six years for the city to allow cottage housing.
“It’s forward thinking to changing needs,” Ranniger said before she voted in favor of the ordinance. “I’m an empty-nester and don’t need a 2,600-square-foot home. I think it can fit into any housing area if done tastefully and correctly.”
Developers have built cottage-style homes in Kirkland, Redmond, Seattle and other neighborhoods over the last several years.
“The homes encourage neighbor interaction,” Heinitz said during her presentation of the ordinance to the Council. “We do not offer them in Kent, but they are in the region and the nation. They attract empty nesters, young professionals and singles.”
The proposed ordinance would have allowed a maximum of 24 units per development and a minimum of six units. The demonstration ordinance would allow as many as two projects but would not be a permanent ordinance.
“We would look at two developments and evaluate them,” Heinitz said. “The (demonstration) ordinance would not allow widespread development of cottage housing.”
If the Council passes such an ordinance, the city would allow six months for developers to submit proposals. A city selection committee would review the proposals and approve up to two developments.
“I think it will be exciting to see what folks put across our desk,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson said before her vote in favor of the ordinance.
Council members Harmon, Jamie Danielson, Les Thomas and Debbie Raplee voted against the ordinance. Ranniger, Albertson and Tim Clark voted in favor of it.
“I’m concerned about the affordability and the density,” Raplee said. “We need to take to work the bugs out.”
City staff did not have an estimated cost of the homes.
“The developers would be the one to analyze the market and determine what will sell,” Heinitz said. “If they are not able to sell, they would not bring forward a proposal.”
Thomas said he visited a cottage housing development in Kirkland.
“This is not low-cost housing,” Thomas said. “They are very nice. They would be for the high-end professional. They are cute, but expensive.”
The Danielson Grove community in Kirkland, completed in 2005 by developer The Cottage Company and designed by Ross Chapin Architects, serves as an example of what might be built in Kent. The city of Kent’s proposed ordinance is similar to a demonstration ordinance adopted by the city of Kirkland.
Danielson Grove features 16 one-, two- and three-bedroom homes built on 2.25 acres, said developer Linda Pruitt, owner of The Cottage Company. The homes range from 700 square feet to 1,500 square feet and sold for $375,000 to $660,000, Pruitt said.
Clark wants Kent to give cottage housing a try.
“It is different than what we’ve been doing,” Clark said. “They’re selling in Redmond and Seattle because they meet a need for smaller units. This is a test. Let’s find out how it goes.”