Cornelius City Council approves model homes in development code
Before Tuesday night, Jan. 2, residential development in Cornelius was allowed with one odd limitation: The city lacked a provision that specifically allows developers to build model homes — example houses built, decorated and furnished to showcase for prospective buyers what their house could look like once it is built and occupied — before they receive permits to build the rest of the houses in a new subdivision.
The Cornelius City Council acted Tuesday to address that limitation, adopting an amendment to the city code that spells out how, where and when model homes can be built and used for sales purposes.
The change was recommended by community development staff. Ryan Wells, Cornelius' community development director, said it was brought forward at the request of developers. Residential development has been taking off in Cornelius recently, with work underway on multiple major subdivisions.
The regulations approved by the City Council require a temporary use permit and a site design review before a model home is built. Temporary sales offices can be built within model homes under the new code language, but they must be removed before the model homes can be converted into actual residences. The city must also issue a certificate of occupancy before a model home is used as a residence.
Regulations also restrict the number and placement of model homes within a subdivision. A subdivision of 10 lots of fewer is only allowed to have one model home. Subdivisions of 11 to 20 lots are allowed two model homes. The maximum allowable number of model homes in a subdivision is three, and only for subdivisions of 21 or more lots.The council heard a staff presentation on the model homes amendment at its previous meeting Monday, Dec. 4, but it opted not to approve the amendment until it addressed the issue of parking at model homes.
Wells said staff looked at the city code of Irvine, Calif., for guidance on the parking language. He said he thinks it is "a pretty highly prescriptive ingredient in this kind of code," suggesting a developer will generally provide sufficient parking in any case where it is building a residential subdivision, but it was added in response to the council's concerns.
"It's my professional opinion that having this type of addition is somewhat prescriptive, but it's responding to an observed need through our community," Wells told the council. "I'm happy to propose this as our staff's response to that request from council."
At least three parking spaces per model home and one parking space per salesperson must be provided by the developer, under the ordinance adopted Tuesday. Nearby on-street parking can count toward this requirement, unless it is located in front of an occupied home, although it must be marked for model home use. In-driveway parking counts toward it as well, Wells noted.
The new language seemed to satisfy the City Council.
"I appreciate staff's diligence in coming up with the proposed language, and I see it as adequate," said Council President Dave Schamp. "In my experience, I've seen impacts just from vehicles making access to the development very difficult, and also impacts to the existing residences, and I think you've acknowledged both of those here, so I'm satisfied."
Mayor Jef Dalin agreed, saying the revised ordinance "seems like an improvement from where we were."
Of the parking language, Dalin remarked, "Like everything in life, we'll try it, and if we find it to be a problem, well, that's why we have the ability to revise these again. … We'll have an opportunity to revise this if need be."
The model home regulations approved by the City Council on Tuesday only apply to detached single-family houses. They will become effective Thursday, Feb. 1.
Cornelius has several residential subdivisions under construction throughout the city. Two are single-family subdivisions of between 11 and 17 lots in size, while four are larger than 21 lots each, according to a November 2017 map on the city website. The largest is Laurel Woods, an 871-lot subdivision in southeast Cornelius.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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