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Friday — February 20, 2004


County eyes affordable housing requirement

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County may soon expand its focus on affordable housing to legislation that could require housing as part of new subdivisions or limit house sizes to lessen the number of employees needed to build and care for them.

In a very preliminary review of the concept, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, Feb. 12 looked at regulations that could require affordable housing in new subdivisions or limit home sizes.

P&Z members didn’t agree on all the details, but generally said they believed the underlying concept—that large new homes require more support and generate more local jobs that need to be accommodated—was a valid one.

"All of these subdivisions create growth, and all of these subdivisions create off-site impacts," said Commissioner Lawrence Schoen, who argued for implementation of some version of the requirements.

Commission Chairman Donald Nurge, however, said it may not be fair to require housing from all subdivisions.

"Are you putting in a subdivision of workers, or are you putting in a subdivision that requires workers?" he asked. "I agree with the concept, but there is still a lot we need to know about."

According to a 2002 Blaine County Residential Job Generation Study, larger homes do create more jobs.

"Most importantly, (the study) shows an exponential relationship exists between residential size and the number of employees they generate for property maintenance and operation, on average," according to the study’s conclusion.

Requiring housing from subdivisions could be a tool to add to the county’s bag of tricks, Planning Administrator Linda Haavik said.

"It’s only a tool," she said. "It’s not meant to take care of everyone in a subdivision. You’re going to have to apply it the same across the board."

According to Haavik, a new regulation could limit the size of new homes, require affordable housing from new subdivisions or incorporate a combination of both concepts.

In addition to the potential subdivision amendments, the county is continuing to draft a new planned unit development ordinance that could facilitate construction of affordable housing in locations throughout the county.

Following several public hearings and workshop meetings last fall, county commissioners returned several versions of the draft ordinance to planners for consolidation. Haavik said the PUD package should be returned to county commissioners by late winter.


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