Background

The City would like make it easier for homeowners to build/use Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).  ADUs are independent forms of housing placed on the same property as a single-family residence.  They may be attached to or detached from the principal home, but share utilities with it.  They are frequently called mother-in-law cottages, caretaker house, etc. 

ADUs have been allowed city-wide for some time.  ADUs can assist in meeting family needs to care for relatives, in allowing elderly and/or medically-involved homeowners to continue living in their homes with nearby caretaker assistance, in providing a source of income for homeowners, and in creating a mix of residents and housing options within a neighborhood.  However, recently the standards have been seen as too restrictive for using ADUs as a housing alternative, particularly regarding their size (square footage).

Current Standards

ADUs are allowed in all zoning districts.  However, the standards vary depending on whether the home is within the Multi-Modal Transportation District (MMTD) overlay or not.  For Betton Hills, the part of the neighborhood south of Betton Road is in the MMTD.

Location:  Within the MMTD, an ADU can be attached to or detached from the principal home on any single-family or duplex parcel.  Outside the MMTD, the ADU must be attached to or within the principal home or within an existing detached garage.

Size:  The ADU can be up to 1/3 the square footage of the house; 750 sq. ft. maximum.

Variances.  No development standards may be varied or deviated, except that the maximum size may be deviated up to 10% with the submission of a site plan.

Rooming House Ordinance:  This limits how many unrelated people can live in a house.  ADUs are subject to this ordinance.

Proposed Standards

Location:  Allow detached or attached ACUs with single family residences city-wide (essentially applying the current MMTD standard throughout the city).

Size:  ADUs can be up to 40% of the square footage of the principal home, with a minimum of 500 sq. ft. and a maximum of 800 sq. ft. (expands the maximum size from 750 to 800 sq. ft.).

Variances:  Allow variances and deviations for ADUs through the existing process used for homes.

Rooming House Ordinance:  Remains unchanged, still applies to ADUs.

Additional Construction Considerations: 

My Take

While I was initially opposed to the ordinance change, I’ve come around to favoring it with some modifications.  I don’t think they will result in an ADU boom, by any means, given the costs of construction and time necessary to recoup those costs even in a rental situation.  For the privilege of expanded ADU choices, however, there should be balancing responsibilities to protect neighbors’ interests. 

Why?

I like the expanded opportunities for homeowners through options like mother-in-law suites or caretaker homes (for people who want to “age in place” in their homes).  As my wife and I ponder whether to stay in our beloved home of the last 25 years or move to a smaller home, maybe outside of Betton, it’s comforting to know that there may be more choices for staying in our home. 

I also like opening up some rental possibilities, particularly for renters looking to stay in a home for an extended period.  Given how expensive housing is these days, I like that young adult renters can more readily live in an established neighborhood.  In Betton Hills, they can learn what a neighborhood community does and feels like, how we contribute to Betton to maintain and grow an even more friendly, safe, and livable neighborhood.  I feel this gives them an opportunity to see the value of neighborhood engagement, getting to know your next door neighbors, participating in neighborhood events, and meeting residents as one walks a dog, bikes the neighborhood, etc.  Plus, with the landlord close by, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about too much noise, the house being overcrowded, or the place not being maintained.

Responsibilities Needed

There are responsibilities that I feel should be addressed beyond the proposed construction considerations listed above.  First, there’s parking.  I don’t want more cars parking on our streets; the ADUs should require designated on-site parking.  We already have narrow streets in many parts of Betton, no sidewalks, and nearby ditches.  The obstacle course created by yard service trucks and trailers is already enough, if not too much.  Second, I don’t think there should be an expansion of granting variances and other deviations for ADUs outside the MMTD.  These lots tend to larger than those within the MMTD.  Therefore, the ADU should be adjusted to fit the lot rather than seeking variances which, when granted, implies a greater imposition on neighbors. 

What are your thoughts on ADUs?