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Dec. 2, 2023

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Street requirement could make ‘missing middle’ development in Walnut Grove smaller, more expensive

Hazel Dell developer wants to build 'cottage clusters' in but a road would eliminate several units

By , Columbian staff reporter
2 Photos
A motorist passes by the site of future cottage cluster developments along Northeast 58th Avenue.
A motorist passes by the site of future cottage cluster developments along Northeast 58th Avenue. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Hazel Dell-based developer wants to build 14 cottage houses in the Walnut Grove area of Clark County, but the county may require a public street through the development — a move that could eliminate a third of the units and increase their prices.

The project, NE 58th  Avenue Cottages, would divide 14 units into three cottage clusters and run a private road through the property at 7517 N.E. 58th Ave. Each cluster would share a communal space with gazebo benches, lawns and other amenities.

The two-story units range between 1,000 and 1,600 square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half baths. A small house that sits on the property will remain.

“They’re smaller-sized, but they’re certainly functional,” said Steve Kay, the land use planner and designer of the project. “It’s more appealing than, maybe for some people, a tiny home, which is very conservative.”

The cottage houses will be individually owned and — as allowed by current plans — will be cost in the low $400,000s, according to Kay.

“This is an opportunity for more diverse housing in our county,” he said.

Cottage clusters are growing in popularity as a solution to Washington’s missing middle housing — more affordable homes with two or more attached, stacked or clustered homes.

In April, the Legislature passed House Bill 1110, which allowed for more middle housing in areas that have been traditionally zoned for single-family homes. The emergence of cottage houses, which are smaller and more affordable than most single-family homes, has contributed to increasing the state’s supply of affordable housing.

But it’s possible the prices for NE 58th Avenue Cottages could come closer to the average sale prices of homes in Clark County.

The county’s circulation standards, which refer to rules about transportation systems within a development project, require that a public street runs through the property, connecting the streets on either side.

Jennifer Reynolds, development engineering services manager for the county, said county code requires the project to show how it would facilitate car, bicycle and pedestrian travel. Having a public street through the property would satisfy the code section outright, she said. The public road could run along the property line rather than going directly through, she said.

The project’s private street would be 26 feet wide, but the county’s standard for a public street is a 46-foot right-of-way, reducing the available buildable land.

This would result in the loss of four to five units, Kay said, and cause prices to increase by around $100,000 each, making them similarly priced to many of the neighboring houses’ estimated values, according to the home listing site Zillow.

In June, the median sale price for a home in Clark County was $521,600, according to the most recent Regional Multiple Service Listing Service report.

The applicant, Dmitriy Gurnik, has submitted a request to the county asking to avoid the public street requirement, according to Reynolds.

Kay said the property would not be the best option for a road because it would require an abrupt turn to connect Northeast 58th Avenue to Northeast 61st Avenue. The project’s application to circumvent the public street suggests an alternate location to the south of the property to avoid the existing development, Kay said.

If the county goes through with the requirement, the additional street would necessitate an entire redesign of the project, Kay said.

The Clark County Hearing Examiner will hold a public hearing for the project at 6 p.m. Aug. 24. People can attend virtually through a Webex link on the county’s website.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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