County eyes affordable housing
By GREG STAHL
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
"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
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