Would change housing size minimums in Twisp’s ‘R’ zones
A revised zoning code for the Town of Twisp, which includes limits on how small houses can be in different residential zones in town, will be reviewed by the Twisp Planning Commission at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Revisions to the zoning code have been under consideration for several months, with the proposed minimum house size requirements generating considerable public interest and comment. If the Planning Commission accepts the latest draft of the zoning code, it would be sent to the Town Council in January.
The draft zoning amendments to be reviewed next week set a minimum house size of 950 square feet in the town’s low-density, single-family residential districts (R-1), which have lot sizes of 10,000 square feet or more.
In the town’s high-density single-family districts (R-2), houses as small as 500 square feet are allowed. In multi-family residential districts (R-3) houses can be as small as 360 square feet.
The zoning code amendments address a wide range of other land use issues in Twisp, including accessory dwelling unit sizes, residential development standards, mobile homes and storage containers.
However, the debate over minimum house sizes has dominated discussion of the town’s zoning code update. During a public comment period and a public hearing last summer, arguments for or against the minimum house sizes generally fell into two philosophical camps.
Proponents of establishing minimum sizes for homes were primarily residents of the R-1 low-density residential district, and they argued that very small or “tiny” houses were out of character with other larger homes in the neighborhood and could drive down property values.
Opponents of establishing minimum home sizes argued for the need for smaller, and therefore more-affordable homes in Twisp, for diversity of housing, and for freedom of property owners to choose what kind of homes to build.
Affordable housing supported
Most people who wrote or testified about the house size issue agreed that Twisp needs affordable housing, although opinions differed on how or whether house sizes should be regulated. Some residents suggested that if property owners want to build a house that is smaller than the size allowed in the zoning code, they should be able to apply for a variance.
“The need for affordable housing was universally supported and one member of the public quoted from the (Twisp) Comprehensive Plan the goal of encouraging diverse housing types and styles,” said town planner Kurt Danison in a report to the Twisp Planning Commission.
A draft zoning code that was under consideration last summer proposed minimum house sizes of 1,200 square feet in the low-density R-1 districts, 800 square feet in the high-density R-2 districts, and 500 square feet in the multi-family residential districts.
The most recent revisions to be considered next week by the Planning Commission reduced the allowable minimum house sizes to 950 square feet in R-1, 500 square feet in R-2 and 360 square feet in R-3 districts. The minimum home sizes are set out in a new section of “Residential Dwelling Standards,” which would allow people to request a variance if they want to build a home smaller than permitted in the code.
“These revisions are suggested as a means to address concerns expressed through comments and testimony by establishing a larger minimum home size in the R-1 zone as well as a minimum home size in all zones intended to address the fairly unanimous desire for more affordable housing in the community,” Danison said in his report.
The new dwelling standards also include more-specific development standards for single-family homes, including requirements that houses must have a permanent foundation, and post-and-pillar foundation would require skirting. The standards also require that exterior siding be similar to materials commonly used in the surrounding community.
The issue of small houses grew out of a controversy that began last spring when a 288-square-foot factory-built home was moved onto a lot on May Street. That area of town, sometimes referred to as “school house hill” or “school hill,” is on a bluff above the Methow Valley Community Center and is one of two low-density (R-1) residential zones in Twisp, with minimum lot sizes of 10,000 square feet.
Some neighbors, many of them residents of the Painter’s Addition subdivision, objected to the size and appearance of the small home, and the fact that it was on a post-and pillar-foundation. Many of the residents of the area submitted comments and testimony to the town, calling for creation of a minimum house size ordinance.
The revised zoning code also includes changes in regulations of accessory dwellings, which are separate living quarters on the same parcel as a primary residence. The new code allows for smaller lot sizes and sets a minimum size of 360 square feet for accessory dwelling units in all residential zones.
The latest version of the draft zoning code retains several earlier revisions, including prohibitions on placement of storage containers in residential zones; new regulations on microbreweries and wineries related to wastewater treatment; and new definitions for binding site plans, data mining operations, modular/factory-built homes, nightly rentals, server farms, and what constitutes a “family.”
The Planning Commission is expected to make a recommendation on the zoning amendments at its Dec. 12 meeting, Danison said. If the Planning Commission sends it on to the Town Council, it would likely be discussed at the council meeting on Jan. 8.