Wilmington neighborhoods may see a new style of communal housing

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Cottage Housing_Fotor_Collage
Cottage housing clusters, such as the ones shown here, could begin to pop up in Wilmington. Photos Courtesy of the City of Wilmington

Wilmington could see progressive cottage housing communities pop up in pre-existing residential neighborhoods.

In a 6-to-1 vote, with Councilman Kevin O’Grady dissenting, Council members approved an ordinance changing the city’s Land Development Code to allow for clustered cottage-style housing developments. Also known as “pocket neighborhoods,” these single-family courtyard developments are a type of detached housing providing small, single-family residences for households.

The housing projects will feature courtyard developments with pods of at least four but no more than 12 cottage units per cluster. Multiple clusters may be developed within a single courtyard and cottage developments would be permitted in some residential zoning districts under certain conditions.

According to Malissa Talbert, spokeswoman for the City of Wilmington, “there are no known developments planned at this time. The regulations for courtyard-style homes could be applied to any property in the city where the standards can be met, but there aren’t specific builders.” However, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark stated in the council meeting the Lincoln Forrest and Pine Valley neighborhoods could be good candidates for this type of housing.

According to the Planning Commission, this housing type is provided as part of the city’s overall housing strategy, which seeks to meet the needs of a population diverse in age, income, household composition, and individual needs through encouraging a variety of housing types and price points, innovation and variety in housing design and site development. Christine Hughes presented on behalf of the City Planning Commission, which recommended passing the ordinance. Commissioners cited the courtyard developments are intended to foster a sense of community and shared common spaces while also allowing for attractive affordable housing.

Hughes also said each unit is required to have a covered front porch with six feet between units and be at least 6-18 feet from a courtyard. “These porches will offer the residents some privacy outdoors but also allow for easy access to shared common space of the courtyard, with residents taking care of it,” said Hughes.

Rivenbark and Councilman Neil Anderson agreed with Hughes on the concept of contributing a progressive idea of community character through pocket neighborhoods that feature personal outdoor porches and centralized communal courtyards.

“I think this concept breathes new life, and makes people glad to live where they are,” said Rivenbark. “I think this is a great concept to revitalize a lot of our neighborhoods.”

Councilwoman Laura Padgett and Councilman O’Grady cited concerns with quality of life and lack of community input from pre-existing neighborhoods, which could have the cottage clusters forced on them. Most of the homes within the cluster do not have personal garages and would have to rely on a parking lot adjacent to homes.

“Appropriately you’re putting the parking elsewhere in most cases, but I have a concern about having an opposing parking lot for the neighbor in a single-person home. People who are living in a single-family home aren’t expecting to move next to a parking lot,”said Padgett.

“We haven’t reached out to communities where these would be,” said O’Grady. “We have neighborhoods that are settled and developed— where people have invested in the biggest investment of their lives and they won’t have a say on these. I don’t know if this is in harmony within an already existing neighborhood. Shouldn’t we get some kind of input from people before we go ahead with this?”

The ordinance will be read and voted on again by City Council members during the next City Council meeting Tuesday, September 1. That’s because the vote to omit a second reading of the ordinance was not unanimous, with Councilwoman Padgett being the dissenting vote.

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at james.m@portcitydaily.com On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD