Council considers draft accessory dwelling unit policy

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Council considers draft accessory dwelling unit policy
An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary living unit with its own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. (Photo/accessorydwellings.org)
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By Missy Schrott | [email protected]

During Tuesday evening’s legislative session, City Council members considered a policy that could allow residents to have accessory dwelling units on their properties.

An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is a secondary living unit with its own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It can be located within a house or as a detached structure. ADUs are often used by family members or caretakers, according to a staff presentation. They are also often rented out to provide income.

City staff have yet to develop a formal proposal for an ADU policy, but they plan to bring a draft policy to City Council by the end of this year.

One of the benefits reported in staff’s presentation is that ADUs add “gentle density over time and have low neighborhood impact.”

Staff will likely recommend that council allow ADUs city-wide, require owner occupancy and require detached ADUs to be “accessory in appearance,” or smaller and shorter than the main dwelling, according to staff’s report.

The owner occupancy requirement is to prevent ADUs from being used solely as rental units by landlords who don’t live on the property, according to Sam Shelby, a city urban planner.

Councilor Mo Seifeldein said he appreciated that condition.

“I do agree … that to begin with, we should have some sort of requirement where we want to avoid a wealthy individual or developer from just coming and buying a bunch of homes or building them for this particular purpose,” Seifeldein said.

The city’s intent is to have the majority of ADUs created from existing structures, Shelby said.

“Most of the inquires we get are, ‘How do I convert my detached garage to an ADU?’ or ‘How can I build a place for my mother in my basement?’” Shelby said. “We’re really hoping to come up with some way to incentivize the use of existing structures rather than constructing brand new things.”

After requesting feedback from the community about ADUs, staff received 186 responses. Of the 75 negative responses, concerns reported include environmental impacts, density, traffic, parking and short-term rentals.

Councilor John Chapman echoed concerns about parking and said some neighborhoods would be more suitable for ADUs than others. For this reason, he said he was hesitant to allow ADUs citywide.

“I would rather have us start out in places where we think it works best versus do it all over the place,” Chapman said.

The city is publishing draft policy recommendations for public comment on Oct. 8 and holding a virtual open house about ADUs on Oct. 22. Planning Commission and City Council are tentatively scheduled to consider an ADU policy in December.

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