The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday heard about a diverse set of options for higher density zoning and housing types, which could bring significant changes to the city in the years to come.

The potential options, if adopted, could include fitting more housing units on city lots by reducing setbacks, reducing minimum lot sizes and using innovative clustered “cottage court” developments, fourplexes and apartment buildings.

Any changes would require public hearings and city council approval.

Ketchum City Planner Brittany Skelton, at the request of P&Z Commission Chair John Kurtz, presented zoning district descriptions and building types adopted several years ago by the east Idaho town of Victor, population 2,260. Skelton worked for the city of Victor planning department before moving to the Wood River Valley. She advised putting into place the sort of zones and building types that the city of Bellevue wants to see in the future.

“That way, when you are staring down an annexation request you can control your fate more,” Skelton said.

Bellevue Mayor Ned Burns has called for a look at high-density zoning options that would allow for multi-family and apartment developments. A review of a draft high-density zone last month led Kurtz to question whether the draft set forth adequate design oversight for multi-family dwellings.

Skelton said she worked under a $1.5 million grant to devise a new land use map for Victor to make it a “more compact and walkable city.” She said Bellevue’s current 6,000 square-foot minimum lot sizes could be split in two to allow for 3,000 square-foot lots in some zones, as occurred in Victor. Bellevue could create new zones that would allow for the development of back-to-back duplexes, accessory dwelling units and detached family homes, according to Skelton.

“There could be a greater number of options than just single-family homes,” she said.

The current process for allowing accessory dwelling units is administrative, according to Bellevue Community Development Director Diane Shay; it only requires signatures from the P&Z chair and her position to approve them.

Skelton said zones were developed in Victor that allow for up to five homes on a half-acre lot and fourplexes with height restrictions to keep them from dominating the visual appearance of an existing residential neighborhood.

“Why not allow fourplexes to be interspersed within a medium-density housing zone?” she asked.

Skelton presented “cottage court” developments that could be limited in height to 24 feet and open on shared courtyard space.   

Shay praised many of the ideas presented, saying the proposed requirements for porches and stoops could help offset the “funky streetscapes” created by the development of manufactured home residences.

The city’s current restrictions on developing duplexes on 6,000 square-foot lots allows only housing organizations like ARCH to build them, according to Shay.

“I am getting rid of that,” she said, “because it is a bit discriminatory.”

Skelton said design regulations for apartment buildings in Victor include a 120-foot wall maximum, a required minimum amount of window space and no more than 30 feet of “blank wall façade.”

“You get much more detailed design standards when you get into apartment buildings,” Skelton said.

Shay said the design “code book” that Skelton presented looked “simple and easy to understand” and could serve to help Bellevue developers.

No date was set for a public hearing to further explore the possible changes to city zoning or building codes.

“I am sure I will have some questions moving forward,” Shay said.

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