Let’s permit Cottage Clusters outright in Eugene.

Cottage Clusters are a group of small, detached homes clustered around a central outdoor common space. Some of the homes face the open common space, while other may face the street. Cottages in the cluster are small-- the maximum square footage is typically below 1000 square feet. Each is considered a single home with its own small yard and covered porch, though they also share a central outdoor common space. Cottages can be rented, owned through a condominium setup, or the lot could be subdivided and individual cottages and the land they are on could be owned within some sort of neighborhood agreement for management of common space.

Cottages are ideal for individuals and couples who don't want a lot of space, but would still enjoy some private outdoor space to maintain a small garden or patio area.  Larger cottages (on the end closer to 1000) can also make ideal “starter homes” or more affordable options for working families who are able to live with less space.

In addition to providing options for those wanting a smaller home, the “cluster” nature of Cottage Clusters can make them ideal setups for intentional communities—such as communities for downsizing retirees or cooperative living groups.

Cottage Clusters Under Current Code:
Someone wanted to build a cottage cluster under current code would have two options:

  • To apply for a permit as a multiple-family dwelling.  
  • Develop as a “Cluster Subdivision.”  Cluster subdivisions are a section in the code that is similar to creating a normal subdivision, with a few differences.

Roadblocks:
For a cottage cluster applying as a multiple-family dwelling, there are several limitations:

  • Multiple-family dwellings are only permitted as part of a planned unit development in R1. This is a much more time consuming and expensive process than a by-right development.  The base land-use fee for a Planned Unit Development in Eugene is about $17,000, plus a fee per unit.  This doesn't include building permits, cost to develop the application materials, system development charges, potential additional fees for adjustments, etc. 
  • There are code elements such as setbacks, street frontage requirements and parking requirements that are more targeted for multi-unit buildings as opposed to cottage clusters, and may need adjustments (a time-consuming application process) in order to be built.

For a cottage cluster developing as a “Cluster Subdivision” additional complicating factors are in place.

  • Cluster Subdivisions require six or more units, which means that clusters of 3, 4, or 5 units don’t have this option.
  • The Cluster Subdivision process is a Type II land-use application process.  It requires notification of neighbors, opportunities for public comment, the potential for appeals, and thousands of dollars of additional fees over and above the building permit fees and system development charges.
  • The Cluster Subdivision criteria for approval and documentation requirements, with a few limited exceptions, to the general process for developing a “traditional” subdivision… which may include dozens or hundreds of houses spread out over many acres.  That process doesn’t necessarily scale well to a cluster of half a dozen small homes on a single acre.

How do we fix this?
Eugene should permit cottage cluster developments as a permitted development type under our zoning code.  This would involve:

  • Adding a definition of “Cottage Clusters” to the definitions section of the code.
  • Adding a “Cottage Clusters” to the permitted use table as permitted in all residential zones.  Cottage Clusters would need to comply with the underlying density restrictions of the zone that it is in… for example, no more than 14 units would be allowed per acre in an R-1 area, no more than 28 in an acre in R-2, etc.
  • Adding additional criteria for the construction of cottage clusters that will help ensure compatibility and functionality, if desired.  Examples are found below in sample codes, but might include parking minimum reductions, open space requirements, or limitations on the size of units.

What would this do?
Right now, if you wished to build a single-family home on a vacant lot, after purchasing the lot and planning your home, you would submit your plan to building permit office, who would review it to ensure that it met all required building and development code standards, and issue a building permit to start construction.  You would not have to engage in a lengthy review process as described in our land use code.  This would save time, money, and headache, and create parity between cottage cluster developments and the developments of single family homes.