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Originally published: 2013-02-19 20:17:26
Last modified: 2013-02-19 21:21:33

Boone multi-family regs approved

by Anna Oakes

The Boone Town Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to approve new supplemental standards for multi-family uses with an exemption for mixed-use projects approved through the conditional B-3 district rezoning process.

The Affordable Housing Task Force presented the standards to the council in December as a step to create more housing stock suitable for families and the workforce.

The standards require multi-family units to include garages or 50 square feet of storage space, a .5 livability space (outdoor living, landscaped areas) ratio and a master bedroom at least 25 percent larger than other bedrooms.

The amendment also mandates a mix of unit sizes in each new multi-family project, restricts bedroom-to-bathroom ratios, restricts building height to three stories and limits parking to two spaces per unit with a designated visitor parking area.

The proposed standards mandate that no more than two unrelated persons can reside in each unit.

The new regulations apply to all new multi-family projects in all zoning districts in the town's jurisdiction except for multi-family units that are part of a mixed-use project approved via the conditional B-3 district rezoning process.

The mixed-use project must have no phasing of construction proposed, unless the commercial portions will be constructed as part of the initial phase; unless no more than one-third of multi-family units are constructed prior to completion of all commercial portions; or unless the applicant provides adequate assurances in the form of financial commitments that all commercial portions will be completed within the approved vesting period.

Councilman Allan Scherlen, who voted against the standards, asked why the council and task force did not wait until the town receives the results of its housing market analysis, which are expected this spring. He also said he favored incentives over mandates to promote affordable housing.

"Why is this coming before us now?" Scherlen said. "Is this just an oversight of the task force or a deliberate act to ignore the results of the housing study? I think it's a mistake to go forward at this time."

Councilwomen Jamie Leigh and Lynne Mason said increasing housing stock will hopefully help stabilize housing prices.

"At least if the supply is there, it can only help," Leigh said.

A number of people vocally opposed the new standards at a public hearing earlier in the month, including Watauga County Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller, area developers and others.

Miller asserted that adoption of the standards as originally proposed by the task force would kill the county's pending sale of the old Watauga High School property to developer Templeton Properties because "student housing is an essential component of the $18,948,000 offer."

However, the exemption for conditional district rezoning mixed-use projects adopted by the council could allow the sale to move forward. Allen Moseley, attorney for Templeton Properties, suggested the exemption at the Feb. 4 public hearing.

Two citizens also spoke against the proposal during Tuesday's public comment session. Liz Riddick asked the council not to approve the standards as proposed, stating the restrictions are excessive and do not contribute to affordability.

Anne Marie Yates also spoke against the regulations.

"Why rush a decision before you have all the information that you need?" she said.