Craig considers how best to accommodate live-work units while protecting intended commercial space
With creative housing solutions and more flexible working situations developing around the city, Craig City Council is starting to consider how to best handle zoning for less traditional uses.
Whether the topic is how to revitalize vacant buildings downtown or how to cultivate more housing for local residents, the idea for live-work units often gets brought into the conversation.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Building Official Marlin Eckhoff told council members there isn’t currently a standard in city code regarding how to handle zoning for live-work units in some areas of Craig.
At the City Council meeting, there were two public hearings for conditional-use permits pertaining to lots at 930 Industrial Ave. and 320 Steele St. in Craig that are intended to be developed for mixed residential and commercial use.
The owners, Andrea and Dale Camp, had requested approval from City Council for the two lots. Both were approved earlier in the summer to build shop-type buildings, and the Camps are now looking to add small living quarters in back of the shops.
“We’ve been getting more and more people looking at that because everybody is getting more creative about what living accommodations look like,” Eckhoff said.
The lots were zoned for light industrial use and council council approved them for an extended conditional-use permit on Sept. 27 to allow for the living quarters for a 35-year term, which is designed to ensure the permits for the life of the mortgage for a potential buyer, as the Camps said they are looking to sell the properties.
“At a time when housing is one of the biggest issues we have, why would we be worried if people are going to have work-live locations?” asked Council member Paul James.
No other council members seemed worried about the conditional use, but without established guidelines in the city building code, there were some concerns about setting a precedent for other owners who might be looking to do the same.
There are other buildings downtown that have businesses with living quarters upstairs but don’t typically allow residential space on the same floor as the business because it could turn into what people would consider to be more of a residence.
“Live-work units are on my radar for looking at what would be some good perimeters for those,” Eckhoff said. “We obviously don’t want one in the back of every commercial building in town. There are some areas and some places where I just don’t think it’s going to be a good fit.”
However, in cases where living quarters do seem to be a good fit, the building department doesn’t have a lot to go on for zoning.
Typically, conditional-use permits go for a period of time determined by City Council, which Eckhoff said gives the city the latitude it needs to revisit the cases and make sure the use isn’t going above and beyond what was approved.
Planning and zoning committee members didn’t express any issues with the Camps’ conditional-use permits, but the committee did add a couple of parameters including requiring a small office space and ADA bathrooms in each of the shop areas.
There was a minor concern from some committee members about how to ensure the properties don’t fully turn into residential dwellings. But Eckhoff didn’t see that as too big of an issue, as he explained that most people won’t want to pay a commercial tax rate for a residential building.
“I think that they should be used for what they are intended,” Eckhoff said, adding that he’s had several people wanting to start artists studios or other types of professional workshops as a part of their residence or a second building.
Council member Derek Duran said that it’s an eye-opener for City Council and Planning and Zoning to take a look at the building codes and see at what needs to be updated.
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