The Alachua County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve cottage villages as appropriate housing.
Cottage villages are clusters of homes that all face inward on one lawn, a method to include more houses per acre than a traditional neighborhood. Discussed by both the County and City commissions previously, leaders discussed it as a solution to affordable housing shortages.
However, the idea of allowing cottage villages to be built was put on hold last month until this Tuesday, after the county held a workshop to hear community input. County staff’s recommendation after the workshop was to make the minimum size of a cottage village lot 2 acres, unless the county gave a developer a special exception. Each unit must be an unconnected single family home.
The concept was contentious at a previous Feb. 28 meeting when commissioners debated whether 1 acre or 2 acres would be the right minimum. Commissioners Anna Prizzia and Mary Alford made the same arguments Tuesday, concerned upping the acreage minimum would prevent cottage village ability to provide infill for the county.
“It’s about filling in the gaps in communities,” Prizzia said. “To me, that 1 acre piece feels pretty important to the kind of concept of what this is supposed to be about.”
Cottage villages are meant to be for small families, not students, Prizzia said. The new rule eliminating multi-family zoning is more than enough to dissuade cottage village developers from buying into that market, she said.
The special exception part of the ordinance was introduced as a compromise by Alford. Cottage village developers hoping to build on land less than 2 acres will come before the County Commission for approval on a case-by-case basis.
Alford also wanted to clarify the intent of the ordinance wasn’t to put cottage villages in the middle of traditional neighborhoods, she said. Fulfilling the purpose of infill would mean building in empty areas within a city’s boundaries. She said she doesn’t see how these villages could cause an issue for people living in built neighborhoods currently.
“You’re not going to offend the neighbors that aren’t there yet,” Alford said.
While Commissioner Ken Cornell likes the special exception compromise, he still wants to ensure new cottage village developments don’t draw community backlash, he said.
He would prefer the commission emphasize compatibility when it comes to these cases, meaning it would pay close attention to where these villages are being built and whether they match the surrounding environment.
In the ordinance, Cornell added a section preventing the development of cottage villages within a platted subdivision — a suburb that has already been mapped out by the city — to keep them out of traditional neighborhoods.
“I think we have to rebuild back some of that public trust,” he said. “So we’re not basically side-stepping this compatibility issue.”
Urban planning firms like EDA Consultants have already begun to draw plans for villages in Gainesville, said Clay Sweger, EDA director of planning. The firm will work with the county over the next year to develop cottage villages.
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Siena Duncan is a sophomore journalism major and the graduate school beat reporter for the Alligator. When she's not out reporting, she's typically bothering her friends about podcasts or listening to Metric on repeat.