The Fern Street Cottages

The Stillwater City Council has approved a request from Stillwater Habitat for Humanity to rezone a 1.5 acre tract of land south of the organizations administrative offices and ReStore for residential development. Habitat plans to build a "pocket neighborhood" of 14 homes on small lots with a common area. Provided

Stillwater Habitat for Humanity has made a request to rezone a portion of 505 E. 18th, the area south of its administrative offices and the Habitat ReStore, to build a “pocket neighborhood” consisting of single family homes with a central common area.

Planning Manager for Community Development Lanc Gross told the City Council the development on the north side of 19th Avenue would be known as The Fern Street Cottages.

The land is currently zoned for light industrial use, but Habitat is requesting it be rezoned for small lot residential development with a Planned Unit Development designation.

It’s surrounded by other residential properties, including single-family homes and a mobile home park.

A PUD provides some flexibility within a zoning category but a specific plan is approved and any other use would have to go through another approval process.

A pocket neighborhood usually consists of smaller residences, often grouped around a courtyard or common garden. The design is meant to increase contact between residents and promote a sense of community, a report from City of Stillwater planning staff explained to the City Council.

The development proposed by Habitat for Humanity would consist of homes sized to accommodate families, but sited on slightly smaller lots than usual, with reduced requirements for setback from the property lines and a central parking area.

The proposed development would contain 14 single-family homes, including four two bedroom/one bathroom homes, six three bedroom/two bathroom homes and four four bedroom/ two bathroom homes on 1.5 acres. Sidewalks would connect all the homes. Each home would have two parking spaces instead of the usual requirement for one parking space per bedroom, Engineer Stephen Gose said.

There would be a 6-foot fence on the north and west sides and a playground area will be incorporated into the development.

There will be some variation in the exteriors of the homes and homeowners can pick their paint colors, Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Hillary Hunt said. There would also be variety in the brick veneer because the brick is donated.

“It’s the luck of the draw,” Hunt said.

The Fern Street Cottages is an example of a community-based housing plan, similar to projects found in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, she explained. It’s a way to maximize available land space and house as many families as possible.

She said the homeowners will also develop their own homeowners association, a leadership development opportunity for them.

Vice Mayor Alane Zannotti expressed support for the development and its layout.

“What a wonderful sense of community,” she said.

The development is supported by funding from Stillwater Makes a Change, a non-profit organization run by volunteers from the student body of Stillwater High School, Hunt said.

City staff and the Stillwater Planning Commission both recommended the City Council approve the request, which it did, unanimously.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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