Tiny houses moving into Claremont

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CLAREMONT, NH — Who knew something so small could split the Claremont City Council, but tiny homes did just that on Wednesday, Feb. 14, as Ordinance 622 passed after considerable debate.

The ordinance adds definitions for cottage homes and cottage developments and now says a cottage is a detached owner-occupied one-family dwelling unit with a maximum gross living space of 1,000 square feet and a maximum footprint of 1,000 square feet.

A cottage development will be on a single lot with shared open space “intended to serve cottages that interact together as a small community.

Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau read the ordinance, which Councilor Spencer Batchelder seconded. Councilors William Limoges, Wayne Hemingway, and Andrew O’Hearne voted no.

Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill said the planning board recommended the council support language in the zoning ordinance to allow different housing types.

“It’s an attempt to provide some smaller housing that might be a little less expensive for first-time homeowners. It’s a new housing tool,” said Merrill.

The council raised concerns about the home’s original size, 1,500 square feet, when they first reviewed the ordinance and where the dwellings were located.

“It went back to the planning board, and they made changes to the ordinance to drop the size of the dwellings to 1,000 square feet, but they still feel that it should be available throughout the city,” she said. “They require a conditional use permit from the Planning Board, and there are different conditions based on different zones in the city.”

Matteau sits on the planning board and has been involved with the Housing Committee with the master plan many years ago. She said the council understands the housing shortage challenge it faces in Claremont.

“I believe the Upper Valley started this discussion with us at the planning board, and they’re looking at tools and things they can put out there to maybe spur and encourage developers to build new housing in Claremont,” she said. “There’s a shortage, and I knew the new city planner came to Claremont, and she couldn’t find a home.”

The board needs to look at innovative ways to solve the housing crisis, and cottage homes and developments are one way to move forward.

“Whether we’ll ever see this take off in Claremont and whether a developer will ever use this tool and say, ‘This is going to work, and I’m going to invest my money and try it,’ I don’t know,” she said. “I know this is important for us to have these tools so we have mechanisms to solve our problems, and housing is a critical issue.”

Councilor William Limoges doesn’t want cottage homes and developments anywhere in the city because they should be on city services to receive impact fees.

“If you put it on the outskirts in open places and all areas, you’re going to start stressing safety services, as well,” said Limoges. “I don’t know how it’s going to work with septic and wells. We’re talking one acre of land.”

Matteau said limiting development to lots with city services will eliminate the possibility they’ll be developed.

“When you look at what’s available on city water and sewer, the pool goes down considerably with the available lots this can be developed,” she said. “If we’re trying to use this tool to develop housing but we’re restricted to the point where you’re fine-tuning available lots that will fit that criteria if we restrict to water and sewer, then we’re defeating our purpose of trying to create more housing.”

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