Two ordinances affecting residential zones in Pembroke were adopted by City Council at its October meeting: the accessory dwelling units ordinance and cottage housing development ordinance. Both provide for small units — tiny homes — to be included in residential neighborhoods.
As any home improvement or real estate reality television enthusiast could attest, tiny homes have become a viable and increasingly popular alternative to the traditional single family residence. City Planning and Zoning Planner Dain Reams hopes that by allowing for tiny home construction, Pembroke will be able to provide more housing options to residents and those looking to move there.
The ADU ordinance allows for the addition of one separate living quarter on single family lots that are independent of the primary residence. The ADU would be completely independent of the primary residence with its own kitchen and bathroom facilities.
The primary purpose of the ADU ordinance is to allow property owners the option of supplying an independent abode for aging parents or a dependent with disabilities who may require extra attention while still maintaining a sense of autonomy.
There are guidelines and standards for an ADU on residential property including those governing occupancy. The landowner is required to reside in either the primary residence or the ADU. The initial two years will require the occupancy of the ADU to be limited to relatives of the primary owner with no more than three inhabitants.
Other standards are in place to regulate the aesthetics, size and placement within the lots of the ADUs. Mobile homes or manufactured dwelling units may not be used as an ADU. An ADU can be added to an existing residence or included in new construction, however, a permit is required and subject to approval by the zoning administrator.
The CHD ordinance, meanwhile, is an effort spearheaded by Reams to allow for a broader variety of housing options that encourage efficient use of land space. He sees this as an opportunity to encourage the development of small communities within the city limits.
“Think of a subdivision of tiny houses,” he said. “The essence thereof is that you’re putting a moderate to high-density housing onto a smaller tract of land.”
Each CHD would include a cluster of dwellings (ranging from four to 12, depending on the size of the lot) centered around a common green space.
The individual units could be sold or rented as single family homes, but the common area would be maintained through either a homeowners’ association or condominium type arrangement.
CHDs could provide an ideal living situation for individuals or families seeking to be more connected to their neighbors and part of a tighter community. Tiny homes could also be a good alternative to apartment living for those who are somewhat transient due to the nature of their work or those who are simply better suited to a smaller abode.
“This will be something that, people starting off not being able to afford a $200,000 house, could potentially move into,” Reams suggested. “If you have someone who is transient, maybe only in the area for a couple of years, like a soldier from Fort Stewart, and they want to live off base, it gives them a little place to have as their own.”
The CHDs also offer an opportunity for a more maintenance-free lifestyle for those looking to downsize and move away from the upkeep of a larger residence and property.
“They want to move to a smaller place, but they don’t want to leave Pembroke. They want to ‘age in place’ as it were,” Reams said. “They want an option to move into a smaller place. For better or worse or otherwise, Pembroke doesn’t have a lot of smaller places to move into.”
As with the accessory units, the tiny house developments are subject to standards and ultimately must be approved by the Zoning Administrator. If approved, the plans will also go before City Council for public review before permits would be granted.
The stated purpose of the CHD ordinance is “to provide moderate density housing of detached single-family dwellings for a population diverse in age, income and household size, while encouraging efficient use of the land, affordability and energy conservation. This is made possible by encouraging innovation and variety in home sizes, clustered home sites and parking and design standards.”
Both ordinances have been adopted in a proactive effort to prepare for potential growth for Pembroke by offering the opportunity to broaden the housing market within the city limits without contributing to urban sprawl.
“I think Pembroke has huge potential,” Reams said. “And when growth happens, and it’s coming, it’s going to be shifting this way and I want to try to make sure that Pembroke grows, but grows responsibly. I’m looking to try to make sure that we have things set in place.”