Home Could cottages be the answer to affordable housing in Waynesboro? Maybe

Could cottages be the answer to affordable housing in Waynesboro? Maybe

cottage housing example
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Cottage-style housing may soon be a possibility in Waynesboro to potentially address the need for more affordable homes in the city.

What exactly is cottage-style housing? The idea with cottage housing is that there would be a cluster of small residences with 800- to 1500-square-feet per home. The home may not face a public road but instead the front of the home may face a community area or garden. There would likely be a parking lot nearby that the homeowners would utilize but no driveways in front of the homes.

The Waynesboro City Council and Waynesboro Planning Commission recently held a joint meeting where Director of Community Development Leslie Tate provided what she called a “high-level overview” of cottage housing.

Tate made a presentation to both governing bodies seeking input as staff works to draft an ordinance and zoning amendments that would allow cottage housing in the city limits.

While the city has seen an increase in residential construction, Tate said, there is a finite amount of developable land.

The cottage housing could give property owners more options for infill lots. Instead of a single-family house, they could build four to 12 new units in the same area depending on the size of the lot. The end result could be more affordable housing options for residents in the city.

“Small infill lots throughout the city may go underutilized if they’re required to meet the standards of our existing subdivision ordinance which requires that all new lots front a public road,” Tate said. “They’re (cottage-style homes) often oriented toward some common shared community elements. The parking is often grouped, and then you have some kind of common sidewalk or path construction that would be utilized to access the individual units.”

Cottage housing, she said, would be a way to create small communities within communities that fit into the overall character of the neighborhood. Cottage housing might be ideal for those wishing to downsize, a single-person household or single-parent household as well as those who might want to live in a more tight-knit community.

“Housing affordability, as we’ve been talking about, is really a national, state, regional and local topic of discussion. And one thing that I’ve really learned about the topic of housing affordability is that it’s extremely complex and really does not lend itself to easy or one-size-fits-all solutions,” Tate said.

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Zoning changes would increase flexibility and allow for infill development and density and provide a way to meet a different housing-sector need within the community, she said. In addition to rental and ownership models, the city could also explore the potential for short-term rental possibilities as a kind of recreational tourism opportunity.

The city could draft the ordinance to allow the housing by right or by conditional use permit and look at property management and requirements similar to developers of condominiums. The ordinance could also define minimum or maximum square footage, building separation, density, acreage requirements and grouped parking.

“These developments would not require the extension of a public road network in order to develop them which would ultimately reduce costs and potentially make the development more affordable to more members of our community,” said Tate. “Cottage housing has been successfully accomplished in other parts of the country.”

Tate said the drafting process would likely be complete in July and then she’d like to present the zoning text amendments to the Planning Commission prior to having a public hearing. The Planning Commission public hearing, she said, could be held in August or September. A public hearing would also be held at a future Waynesboro City Council meeting.

The goal, she said, would be to potentially adopt the text amendments to allow for cottage housing in September or October.

cottage housing
Illustration courtesy of City of Waynesboro

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.