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Council: When is a house too small?
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An 800-square-foot house is small, but is it too small?

The Covington City Council couldn’t reach a consensus on whether to allow such small homes to be built in the Walker’s Bend subdivision, off Ga. Highway 81, leaving Mayor Kim Carter to cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of allowing smaller homes.

The city discussed house sizes as part of an overlay zoning ordinance that will place strict building and maintenance regulations on property in Walker’s Bend.

Councilman Chris Smith said he felt homes smaller than 1,100 square feet simply weren’t consistent with the existing 1,500 square foot average in the neighborhood. He also disagreed with the requirement that all new houses be built to EarthCraft standards, a voluntary green building program that seeks to promote more energy efficient homes.
He said the homes would
cost $90 per square foot to build, twice as much as traditional building standards — a requirement that is too harsh on builders. He asked who would want to buy an 800-square-foot home for $75,000, when they could buy a home twice that big elsewhere.

Councilman Mike Whatley added that he believed small homes wouldn’t stand the wear and tear of multiple tenants.

However, Planning Director Randy Vinson said it’s the larger homes in the western part of the county that are falling apart because of substandard building practices. While the EarthCraft standard homes would cost a lot up front, he said they would result in significant utility savings.

The homes would be perfect for single residents or elderly couples, who don’t want a larger home, Vinson said. Mayor Carter pointed out that the city’s comprehensive plan calls for affordable housing, which would be provided by a small house, that has a fairly low up-front cost and a very low maintenance cost.

And while some argued that the smaller homes would drive down values in the neighborhood, Vinson said once a couple of well-built smaller homes are sold, the market price will be set, and the larger homes value will increase.

Resident Roger Smith said he was convinced when he went to visit similar developments in Griffin and Columbus, which had high-quality development with smaller homes.

Vinson said the smaller homes would only be one option, and Smith said it was the variety of possible price points that would be able attract homeowners at all stages of life.

The council voted 3-3 to approve the first reading of the overlay ordinance, with Councilmen Keith Dalton, Smith and Whately opposed; Carter broke the tie in favor.