After several months of deliberation over what to do about cottage courts, the Victor City Council found a panacea to the problematic building type.
“Cottage courts” came into general parlance in Victor when a 14-unit modular development was installed on Hwy 31 last fall. The community reacted with outrage about the aesthetics of the 1200 square foot homes clustered around a small plot of open space. Cottage courts are allowed in several zones according to Victor’s land use code, but city staff and council were spurred to make fast changes to the code to better regulate the look of such development.
Working off a recommendation from Valley Advocates for Responsible Development rather than city planner Josh Wilson, the Victor Planning and Zoning Commission voted to strike cottage courts from the city code until they felt they could better regulate the building type.
At its Jan. 24 meeting, the city council passed rigorous new design standards and regulations that included detailed appearance requirements for cottage courts. Because of that, the council members decided not to approve P&Z’s removal of the building type and instead directed Wilson to come up with a different solution.
Wilson presented his answer to the council on Valentine’s Day in front of an almost empty room. The furor over cottage courts appeared to have died down.
Wilson recommended that the city remove cottage courts from certain residential zones because, he pointed out, cottage courts gave developers a huge density bonus in some zones. In the residential zones RS-7 and RS-5, lots are at minimum 7,000 or 5,000 square feet respectively, and if a developer puts four or so cottages in that space instead of a single family home, the income could be much higher with no additional administrative costs. Cottage courts are still allowed in several other higher-density residential zones, to promote infill in the core of Victor. This eliminates the possibility that some of the large tracts of land on periphery of town could be developed as cottage courts.
“We don’t have the tools today to effectively administer them,” Wilson said. “When you’re talking 10, 20 acres of cottage courts, there is that situation existing in RS-5 zoning. We could continue to see that and we don’t have the tools to manage that.”
VARD Executive Director Shawn Hill was the only person to speak at the public hearing. He applauded the council for considering the zoning change but said that nothing was being done to keep cottage courts as an affordable housing option. He recommended deed restrictions, which place limitations on a property so it can only be sold or rented to a buyer or tenant who meets certain income requirements. The city could hold a deed restriction and contract with a property management company. Hill also recommended that the city bar short-term rentals in cottage courts because they limit already scarce available housing.
Mayor Jeff Potter said that deed restrictions and short-term rental regulation were important conversations to have but were too broad to fit into the evening’s proceedings.
“For tonight’s purposes we have a lot of other amendments included in this update," Potter said. "These other items are bigger discussions that require a lot more time and thorough consideration, and outreach to the public to build support.”
The council quietly voted to approve the amendment to Victor’s code.