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Grandview eyes diversity with new housing starts

GRANDVIEW - The Grandview Planning Commission found itself being given a new assignment Monday night.

After listening to a detailed housing presentation by Yakima Valley Conference of Government Senior Planner Michael Buchanan and Senior Program Coordinator Nazmul Alam, Grandview City Council members charged the planning commission with creating more diverse future land use designations when it comes to residential areas of the community.

Buchanan explained that the way the city's comprehensive plan currently reads, there are only very broad zoning requirements in place. He noted that the only zones indicated in the comprehensive plan are residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural. He said the one residential zone includes all types of housing from $500,000 homes to trailer parks.

"Better control through future land use designations could develop better neighborhood feelings," Buchanan said.

He then gave both city council and planning commission members a close look at the housing situation in Grandview. Buchanan noted that between the 1990 and 2000 census Grandview actually saw a deterioration of housing in the city limits. He explained that the deterioration comes from a variety of factors, from more people living under one roof to those with lower incomes not being able to afford necessary repairs to their homes.

Buchanan also showed how Grandview's population has increased from 1990 to 2000. According to census information, Grandview's population grew by more than 1,200 people, while the number of housing units grew by only 192.

"This equates to overcrowding," Buchanan said.

However, in the past four or five years, Buchanan said Grandview has seen an increase in the number of annexations. He noted that recently more than 250 new spaces for single family homes have been annexed into the city.

Buchanan also explained that in 1994 the average construction value of new homes being built in Grandview stood at $49,652, not including the value of the lot. He said in 2004 that number had only grown to $59,599. He noted that when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, the value of the homes being constructed has not increased.

"You're getting the same houses that were being built 10 years ago, being built today," he said.

Buchanan said part of the problem may be that when potential home buyers get a copy of the multiple listing for Grandview there are very homes on it, regardless of all of the new construction that is taking place.

"They see there is no place to live in Grandview," Buchanan said.

He said the issue is that most of the new construction falls under exclusive listings with local realtors, meaning that those properties are not on the multiple listing service and therefore aren't available to people who are using large data bases to look for housing in the Valley.

However, the issues Grandview are facing are not that different from housing issues affecting other local communities.

"A lot of other Valley communities are suffering from the same problems," Buchanan said.

Buchanan noted that one way to help improve housing in Grandview is to create more single-family residential zones.

Discussion then turned to creating different parameters for different single-family residential zones that could include everything from different minimum lot sizes to requiring developers to include neighborhood parks in their designs.

Buchanan also suggested revising the city's comprehensive plan to reduce the number of new lower income developments that come in. He noted that Grandview already has a number of low income housing units and the comprehensive plan should be rewritten to reflect that.

Another way to help improve housing in Grandview, according to Buchanan, is to improve the enforcement of the Uniform Housing Code, zoning codes and the city's new nuisance ordinance.

Planning Commission Chair Don Olmstead said the only single-family residential zone the city currently has in place sets the minimum lot size at 7,000 square feet. He noted that many of the new developers have latched onto that size and aren't trying to create housing options with larger lots. He said he thinks this is something that could be addressed by diversifying the residential zoning options the city offers.

"We need to create more opportunities," Olmstead said.

He added that he also likes the idea of including amenities within developments.

"I would like to see an opportunity for planned community developments," he said. Those developments would include the construction of common areas within a subdivision, such as parks.

"I think the sky should be the limit," said City Administrator Jim Sewell. "You should look at everything."

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