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A. Co-housing developments may be allowed in use districts where listed as a permitted use if they comply with the following requirements listed in this subsection. Co-housing projects that comply with the standard residential development regulations within a use district are exempt from this subsection.

B. Approval Process. Co-housing projects opting to develop under this section and located in the residential single, residential multi transition or residential multi multiple use district shall be processed following the procedures in Chapter 21.10 BMC.

C. Special Requirements. The hearing examiner may approve an application for a co-housing project if it is found to comply with the following criteria:

1. The project applicant must be a legal entity created for the purpose of developing a co-housing project. The organization shall be transformed into a residential owners’ association upon completion of the development and subsequent occupation of the dwelling units. Membership of the association shall be open only to owners of the dwelling units in the development. It is intended that co-housing projects be primarily owner occupied. Commercially owned rental projects are not permitted.

2. The housing type may consist of any housing type (e.g., townhouses, flats, etc.). Individual lots are not required for each unit. The project density shall not exceed the allowed density, regardless of the type of housing, specified in the applicable subarea of the zoning tables in Chapter 20.00 BMC. If there is more than one density listed, the highest listed density for any housing type specified in the applicable neighborhood subarea pursuant to zoning tables in Chapter 20.00 BMC shall be considered the maximum potential density for co-housing. A co-housing development in a multifamily zoned area shall be developed to the minimum density provisions pursuant to BMC 20.32.040(B). The maximum number of units which may be approved for a particular project may be less than the maximum potential if the site is within an environmentally sensitive area of the Lake Whatcom watershed or if it cannot meet the criteria for approval at the proposed density. Any proposal for division of the property shall comply with city codes regarding subdivision.

3. Uses within the co-housing project shall be limited to those permitted uses listed in the residential single use district and those allowed under the provisions of this subsection. Any request for a conditional use on the co-housing site may be considered through the appropriate permit review procedures for conditional uses as prescribed by city code. The co-housing contract shall specify the uses approved for the specific site.

4. Height. The height limit of the underlying zone shall apply. Common buildings may be considered main buildings for the purposes of determining height limits.

5. Usable Space. At a minimum, usable space in an amount equal to that required for a proposal of the same number of units under BMC 20.32.040(F) shall be required.

6. Yards. In residential single zones, the minimum setback from the perimeter of the site shall be 15 feet from all property lines except from arterial streets. The setback from arterial street sides shall be as provided in BMC 20.30.040(G)(1), provided the minimum required setback under this provision shall not be greater than 20 feet from the edge of the right-of-way.

7. Parking. Co-housing developments shall satisfy all parking regulations contained in Chapter 20.12 BMC; provided, that the hearing examiner may increase or decrease the required number in order to mitigate expected impacts based on the proposed development design and/or occupancy or based on proposed use and occupancy restrictions. Open parking areas shall not be located within 15 feet of any property line unless the hearing examiner determines that a reduced setback will provide adequate buffering to protect adjacent properties and uses. In no case shall the setback be reduced below five feet without variance approval.

8. Landscaping. Co-housing developments shall satisfy all landscaping requirements for similar uses contained in BMC 20.12.030. Additionally, open parking areas shall be screened from adjacent property lines by a minimum three-foot to four-foot-high hedge or fence. Refuse and recycling bins shall be screened from view of adjacent properties by fencing and landscaping.

9. Open Space. In residential single zones, at least 15 percent of the project site area shall be maintained as common open space. For the purposes of this provision, common open space shall be any undeveloped area designated, dedicated or otherwise reserved for public and/or private use and benefit as a natural area, greenway corridor or for recreational purposes as may be specified on the approved site plan. In other zones, the open space requirements of the underlying use district shall apply.

10. Common buildings for uses consistent with the definition of co-housing may be permitted, provided no common building shall exceed 5,000 square feet in floor area.

11. A sidewalk shall be constructed within all abutting city street rights-of-way. A local improvement district commitment or other method of obtaining a financial contribution to sidewalk construction may be accepted in place of construction if the city does not desire immediate construction.

12. Walkways shall be required to link building entrances, streets, recreational areas and parking.

13. Streets and utilities shall be designed to fulfill reasonably anticipated future need and be located to enable the continued orderly and reasonable use of adjacent property. Streets and utilities shall be extended across the full width of the property unless it is clearly demonstrated that the extension will not be needed for development of adjacent property.

14. Abutting streets shall be improved to a three-quarter standard, based on the specified street standard in Chapter 13.04 BMC or the street standard specified in the neighborhood plan.

15. Activities that are part of a home occupation may take place in a portion of a common building if specifically approved through a home occupation permit. All other rules and limitations regarding home occupations shall apply. Common buildings shall not be designed for commercial uses. Common buildings or groups of residences are not to be used to conduct business activities that exceed the magnitude of activity normally associated with home occupations that are conducted within single-family residence. Business activities shall not be the primary function of a common building and in no case shall more than 50 percent of the area of a common building be used for home occupations. The number of home occupations and the area used for each may be regulated in order to limit cumulative impacts. The co-housing contract may provide for additional home occupation limitations.

16. Design Guidelines.

a. The development, from the viewpoint of the public street, shall present a view that is residential in nature and similar to, or compatible with, other residential uses on that street. For example, views of residences and landscaping rather than views of blank walls or parking lots.

b. Large parking lots shall be avoided. Parking areas shall be broken up with landscaping and placed along the sides and rear of the site whenever possible.

c. Existing wetlands, streams, significant trees, topographical features and other natural features shall be saved, preserved and enhanced to the greatest extent possible consistent with reasonable and appropriate use of the subject site. Links between open spaces and pedestrian routes shall be facilitated whenever possible.

d. The design shall provide outdoor play area for children in individual yard and/or common areas unless occupancy of the project is limited to adults.

e. Group play areas, recreational areas or other areas intended for concentrated outdoor activity for group functions should be located away from project boundaries and adequately screened to minimize impacts on adjacent properties.

f. In single-family residential districts, the project should encourage a diversity of construction styles in order to maintain a character more in keeping with that of single-family residential developments in contrast to that of multifamily developments.

17. The proposed development must also be found to:

a. Address any special conditions, prerequisite considerations or significant environmental elements identified in the neighborhood plan;

b. Be consistent with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan;

c. Make adequate provisions for drainage, vehicular and pedestrian access (including emergency vehicle access), water, sewer, recreational areas and any other relevant features necessary to serve the public interest; and

d. Be designed to promote the residential quality of the neighborhood and to avoid detrimental impacts on adjacent properties.

18. The standards herein are minimum standards and may be increased for a particular co-housing proposal where more stringent standards are necessary to protect neighboring properties, conform with existing development in the area, preserve natural resources or sensitive environments, provide for orderly development or conform with the comprehensive plan.

D. Any exceptions to the standards in subsection (C) of this section must be approved by the hearing examiner only after written submittal by the applicant detailing the reasons why the standards cannot be met. Grounds for exceptions shall be limited to those justifications for variances contained within Chapter 20.18 BMC. Exceptions to allowed uses or density may not be granted. [Ord. 2021-10-044 § 3; Ord. 2004-09-065; Ord. 2002-10-069 § 44; Ord. 1998-08-062 § 5].