The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 4-0 to alter the parameters of its cottage neighborhood development requirements in a bid to create more small family homes.
The BOCC imposed a six-month moratorium on new cottage neighborhoods in October, and it is expiring. The commission voted Tuesday during its regular meeting to adopt changes to the existing requirements.
A cottage neighborhood is a dense cluster of small homes that have one or more common green spaces that surround the small homes.
Under the county’s Uniform Land Development Code, cottage neighborhoods can have double the density of similarly zoned properties. So if the zoning allows for four homes per acre, a cottage neighborhood would be able to build eight homes in that same space.
“The point really is about infill,” said Commissioner and BOCC Chair Anna Prizzia. “The point is to find those one-acre lots where you could have only had …four houses and now you're encouraging eight. It's about filling in the gaps in communities.”
Among the changes, the new requirements will limit Cottage Neighborhoods to detached, single-family homes. Initially, the county code allowed for duplexes and triplexes. The new changes also cap the home size at 1,400 square feet.
The revised code sets a 2-acre minimum for Cottage Neighborhood developments and bans them in previously platted subdivisions. However, after discussion, the BOCC added a provision that allows for a potential BOCC-approved special exception for developments under two acres or in existing platted subdivisions.
The county instituted the moratorium and revised the code in part to pushback from the community on the 12-unit Lanata Cottage development on SW Williston Road.
“I think Lanata, for lack of a better term, sort of found a way creatively to build student apartment complexes using this neighborhood context,” Prizzia said. “That was never the intention of this process. The idea was to create small, small units for families that need more affordable housing unit options.”
Prizzia said some of the changes – like the size limitations and the switch to only single-detached homes – would prevent further Lanata-style neighborhoods.
“[The code changes create] a very different model. You’re not putting four bedrooms with individual leases in a 1,400-square-foot small home,” Prizzia said.
Most of the existing cottage neighborhoods like 88th Street Cottages and Lanata are rental units, said Clay Sweger, a local planner whose firm EDA has worked on four cottage developments in the area.
Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said she hopes that future cottage developments would be built to be sold versus used as rentals.
“It seems to me that we do need to be more creative and open to how we are looking at housing,” Wheeler said.