COLUMBIA — City Council unanimously voted in favor of a cottage-style affordable housing project in the First Ward, which both city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission voted against.
In a 5-2 decision during its Sept. 18 meeting, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the council deny Amir Ziv's request to build the Cozy Cottages, three cottage-style houses on a double lot zoned for duplexes or single-family homes. The commission was concerned with the placement of garages in front of the houses, the density created by three houses on a double lot and the damage the development would cause to neighboring trees.
Ziv and Columbia Associates Architects compromised by replacing the garages with carports topped by dormers for storage. The council discussed making the carports mandatory, but instead decided to leave the decision to Ziv.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said she was "perplexed" at Planning and Zoning's concern about density.
"It's what we're wanting," she said. "We're wanting more density in our downtown."
Ziv met with the lot's neighbors and agreed on a setback that would protect the root system for the nearby oak trees, which were appraised at almost $70,000.
The only issue the council raised was requesting that Ziv follow the illustration he made for the proposal. Mayor Darwin Hindman proposed and the council approved that Ziv's cottages must look "substantially as shown in the artist's rendering."
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he doesn't "take disagreeing with Planning and Zoning lightly," which other council members agreed to. However, they all supported Ziv's originality and forward thinking.
"This could be a prototype, and I'm happy to support it," Skala said.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade agreed and added that Ziv has identified issues for the city to make the process easier for similar projects in the future. He also said that Ziv's use of PolySteel, rain gardens and rain barrels will make "affordable housing more affordable."
Ziv, who Hindman called a pioneer, was pleased with the council's decision. He sees a disconnect between the Planning and Zoning Commission and the council.
"City Council put together the affordable housing (report), and I guess Planning and Zoning wasn't privy to it or didn't read it," Ziv said.
He also sees the disconnect in Public Works, which may enforce storm water requirements costing approximately $30,000 that would make Ziv's project too costly for the affordable housing market. He said he hopes to reach a compromise with Public Works before Oct. 30, after which he'd have to go to the Board of Adjustments to plead his case.
Ziv said if the storm water issue is resolved, he would like to start construction on the cottages by mid-November.
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said: "I hope to get more projects like this in the First Ward."
Mike Martin, a developer in the First Ward, said he has followed Ziv's example before in renovating old homes and looks forward to following it in this case, too.
Ziv also said he wants to build more homes in this style, but in new ways and in different sizes.