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The County Council adopted Zoning Text Amendment 19-01 (ZTA 19-01) “Accessory Residential Uses – Accessory Apartments” on July 23, 2019. ZTA 19-01, which goes into effect on December 31, 2019, makes substantial changes to the rules governing “accessory dwelling units”, ADUs. Zoning Text Amendments are the legislative device for changing the County’s Zoning Ordinance.
The following material explains what an ADU is, what the new County rules for ADUs are, and ADUs within the Town.
What is an ADU? An ADU is a second dwelling unit located on a lot with a single-family house. An ADU is subordinate to the house. An attached ADU is one that is located inside the house, often in the basement. A detached ADU is one that is in an accessory building in a rear yard (e.g., a converted garage, a “tiny” house, a granny pod, a pre-fabricated unit). Currently, attached ADUs are allowed in all residential zones in the County, but detached ADUs are only allowed in “large lot” zones (1 acre or more minimum lot size).
What has the process been for making the zoning changes for ADUs? On February 14, 2019, the Planning Board considered ZTA 19-01 which specified the proposed changes to the rules that govern “ADUs. On February 26, the County Council held a public hearing on the ZTA and then sent the ZTA to the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee for consideration. The PHED held three work sessions, recommended a number of amendments to the ZTA and sent it back to the County Council. The County Council held work sessions on the ZTA on June 18 and on July 9, and unanimously voted to adopt it with amendments on July 23. On July 16, the Council introduced companion Bill 22-19 Accessory Dwelling Units – Licensing Requirements-Amendments. Bill 22-19 will amend the standards for minimum ceiling heights for basements or cellars used for ADUs and amend ADU licensing procedures. A public hearing on Bill 19-22 is tentatively scheduled for September 10. The ZTA and Bill 19-22 will go into effect on December 31, 2019.
What problem is ZTA 19-01 trying to solve?County Council member Hans Riemer introduced ZTA 19-01 to encourage the creation of more ADUs in single-family neighborhoods throughout the county. Proponents of the ZTA see ADUs as a means of producing additional housing options, whether for extended families or as a source of supplemental income. They also see ADUs as a means of increasing the supply of affordable housing, though there are no provisions in the ZTA to ensure affordability.
What are the most significant changes in the ADU rules?ZTA 19-01 removes many of the current limits on creation of an attached ADU (see below). The most significant change included in the ZTA is that, for the first time, detached ADUs will be allowed as a “Limited Use” in “small lot” neighborhoods like the Town (currently they are allowed as a limited use in “large lot” zones on lots of 1 acre or more). Under the new rules, detached ADUs constructed in older buildings can have minimal or no setbacks from side and rear property lines. In the Town, older garages often sit on or very close to the side and/or rear property lines. Other significant changes are that greater density of ADUs will be allowed by right and both attached and detached ADUs will be allowed as part of new construction.
What are the County’s new ADU rules?
Rules for both Attached and Detached ADUs:
Rules for Attached ADUs
Rules for Detached ADUs
Will ADUs have an impact on schools?If the ZTA encourages larger, family-sized ADUs, it is possible that there will be an increase in the number of students. And although the owner of a newly built home must pay a school impact fee, a freestanding ADU for a family will generate no fees.
ADUs in the Town
What has the Town done so far?The Town Council, assisted by the Land Use Committee, has kept up with each phase of ZTA 19-01’s progress. Mayor Barney Rush testified for the Town at the Planning Board’s February 14 hearing and Council member Joel Rubin testified for the Town at the County Council’s February 26 public hearing. They conveyed the Town’s support for most of the ZTA’s provisions.
The Town also expressed the position that size limits should be retained on ADUs and that existing accessory buildings converted to detached ADUs should not be exempt from setbacks. Following the County Council’s June work session, the Town sent a letter expressing support for several of the changes made to the proposed ZTA arising from the work session review. The letter specifically referenced our support for the following modifications to the initial draft ZTA: 1) retention, in most instances, of, the 1,200 square foot cap on the size of an ADU, and 2) retention of the requirement that, in most instances, an attached ADU must have a separate entrance at the side or the rear of the primary dwelling. The Town again requested that existing accessory buildings converted to detached ADUS not be exempt from setbacks. Read the letter. The Town’s position on setbacks for detached ADUs should not prevent someone from having an ADU. A resident interested in developing a non-conforming detached ADU could seek a variance, and, in any event, could build an attached ADU. The Town continues to solicit comments from residents.
Can the Town regulate ADUs in the Town?The Town has the authority to regulate the setbacks, height, and mass of buildings in the Town, the amount of impervious surfaces, stormwater runoff, tree removal, and parking. The Town’s rules can be more restrictive, but not less restrictive than the County’s rules. Thus, the Town can regulate some aspects of an addition to a house used for an attached ADU and of an accessory building used for a detached ADU.
If the Town does not change its current rules for accessory buildings, what could happen with detached ADUs in the Town?
Would the Town’s stormwater regulations control stormwater runoff from a detached ADU?Only if the footprint of a new detached ADU was 700 square feet or greater, or if construction on the lot requiring a stormwater plan took place within the prior 2 years.Changing Town Rules to Govern ADUsThe Town can adopt rules to govern detached ADU setbacks, height, and screening, stormwater runoff, and impacts on the tree canopy. It can also adopt rules about parking requirements for attached and detached ADUs. But before considering any measures, we would like to hear views from residents on this matter. Please write to the Town Office if you have interest or questions.
Topics to Consider
What You Can Do