Conservation Cluster Housing

Conservation Cluster Housing: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cluster Housing?

Cluster housing is an alternative way to approach residential development that allows land to be used more efficiently. Residences are grouped, leaving larger blocks of open space which preserve environmentally critical areas or forested/natural areas. Development occurs on the most buildable portion of land, taking into consideration surrounding natural features such as mature trees.

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Why is this development option called Conservation Cluster Housing (CCH)?

In adopting the Conservation Cluster Housing regulations, the City Council’s intent was to encourage single family cluster and cottage housing as a low impact development strategy that would reduce native vegetation loss and support natural storm water management. Lake Forest Park’s CCH regulations require that 50% or more of a property be set aside permanently as a conservation easement that protects critical or forested areas.

What is a Permanent Conservation Easement?

A conservation easement is like a blanket spread across a property. In the areas covered by the blanket, no development can take place. The Permanent Conservation Easement required by the CCH provision would be recorded on the property title and remain in place even if the property was sold and thereby permanently protect forested and native growth areas that otherwise might not be protected.

What are Critical Areas?

The City’s Environmentally Critical Areas code states that “Critical areas” means wetlands; streams; areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water; fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; frequently flooded areas; and geologically hazardous areas such as erosion hazard areas, landslide hazard areas, seismic hazard areas, and steep-slope hazard areas. “Critical areas” also include any buffers established by the code. A “Buffer” is an area that is contiguous to a critical area that is established to protect the critical area. Buffer widths can range from 25 to 300 feet depending on the type of critical area. Wetlands have the largest buffer requirements.

Can Conservation Cluster Housing be built on any lot in Lake Forest Park?

CCH could be proposed for any lot that has a single-family zoning classification, but the protective restrictions make it unlikely that it would happen in any zoning district other than RS-7200 (minimum lot size of 7,200 square feet) or on any lot that is less than half an acre (21,780 square feet) in size. In addition to setting aside 50 percent or more of a property for conservation, the site must include an outdoor common area of at least 200 square feet per dwelling unit. Critical areas and buffers are not eligible for meeting this requirement. There has to be at least one parking space per unit and the parking has to be screened from the street and adjacent properties with a 10-foot landscaping strip. None of the buildings can be closer than 10 feet to a property line or street. After all that is taken into account, a site must be have room for at least three dwelling units and there can be no more than 10 dwelling units.

Another important criteria that limits the how often CCH will happen is that all the units remain on one lot. It cannot be subdivided – the cottages will not be on individual lots. In order for an individual unit to be sold, the developer would need to create a condominium association. In adopting the CCH regulations, the Council was also seeking to diversify the housing options for residents. This alternative form of residential development could create homes that are a little more affordable. In addition, it could provide an alternative for elderly residents that wish to remain in the community but need housing that requires less maintenance than a traditional single family home.

More Information on CCH

For more information about CCH continue to the CCH Help Topic.