Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

Commission hears housing density proposals


Last updated 3/18/2021 at 11:28am

Cheney Planning Department

The map above shows the location of 31 parcels that are both R-3 and 5,000 square feet or less, and thus eligible for a density exemption.

CHENEY – Planning Commission members are considering several changes to city municipal codes that would allow greater residential density for developers.

At their March 8 meeting, commissioners received information on changes that would allow more units in R-3/multifamily zones as well as creation of a new chapter that would regulate cottage-style housing, also referred to as "tiny homes."

The R-3 changes would increase the density by increasing the number of units per acre from 14 to 21 units, and decreasing the number of square feet allowable for one unit from 3,111 square feet to 2,073 square feet. The proposed amendment would also set a maximum net density of one unit per 1,361 square feet of site area, 32 units per acre, for R-3H/multifamily (high density) and removed the minimum net density for both classifications.

The amendment also adds an exemption for these density requirements to the three already listed. The new exemption would allow someone who places a one-bedroom/one bathroom or studio unit on a 5,000-square-foot lot to round up the allowed density from 2.4 units to three units, while still meeting all other applicable requirements.

"You cannot get three units based on 21 units per acre," senior planner Brett Lucas said.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman said most of the parcels where the R-3 amendments would occur are located in the center section of the city where single-family zoning eventually morphed into R-3 over time.

Lucas said he had identified three clusters of lots, 31 parcels, that are both R-3 and 5,000 square feet and under where the changes would apply, none west of Union Street. Some of those parcels likely have existing structures, and Lucas said he would get back to the commission on just how many those were.

The cottage-style housing zoning regulation were first discussed in 2019, but shelved when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Lucas said the main reason for the codes, and the department returning to discussing them, is movement in the state Legislature to increase the options for affordable housing in municipalities.

The codes would apply to all detached dwelling units of 1,000 square feet but no less than 400 square feet and would carry a maximum of no more than 16 such units per acre to "ensure adequate parking, open space and utility access." Cottages allowed in the R-2 (duplex) zone would carry a minimum lot size of 10,000 square feet, comply with R-2 parking requirements and have a minimum of 1,000 square feet total of private and/or common space per cottage.

Commissioner Dan Turbeville said the style reminded him of bungalow-courts from 1920s Los Angeles, a housing type he said was successful because of their close proximity to mass transit, which in that case was a trolley system. Turbeville requested Lucas provide additional information on the number of parcels in the city that would fall under these regulations and that were near Spokane Transit Authority bus stops.

Commissioners had additional questions regarding this style of homes, including a section dealing with homes built under cooperatives or cooperative ownership arrangements. Lucas said planning staff would assemble more information, adding that the city has time right now to address the issue ahead of the Legislature's final decisions.

"We don't know where the state will come down," he added.

John McCallum can be reached at

Author Bio

John McCallum, Managing Editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Cheney Free Press for over 20 years. He has received 10 Washington Newspaper Publisher Association awards for journalism and photography, including first place awards for Best Investigative, Best News and back-to-back awards in Best Breaking News categories. He has been serving as editor of the Spokane Valley News Herald since March 2020.

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