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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Planning Commission Deadlocks Over ADU's

After being on the drawing board for over a year, a proposed new zoning ordinance permitting construction of residential accessory dwelling units under certain circumstances (aka mother in law apartments)-- failed to pass August's Planning Commission meeting by a 4-4 tie vote and was sent back to the ADU Committee for "tweaking." ADU Committee Chairman Gary Moore had earlier described the ordinance as originating in the Comprehensive Plan (lack of stock of affordable housing) and was primarily intended to serve the city's aging population (and "returning" grown children). Relatively small footprints, 2 bedroom limits, 4 persons limit, no on street parking, no sub-division allowed, the property owner having to live in one of the units and existing short term rental restrictions would apply. They would be used primarily for "in town/in fill" and would not be permitted in subdivisions having restrictive covenants "as I read them," according to Moore. Commissioner Fiddler said she had received a letter from a resident requesting all occupants be required to be related--because of a problem with excessive numbers of renters in a neighbor's existing out-building. Moore speculated they may have been construction workers who may indeed have been related but specifically requiring a family relationship in the ordinance could be legally problematic. Commissioner Stankoski wanted to know how you'd enforce an owner living on the property and its effect on re-sale value. "In my opinion this turns every piece of property into rental property." Planning Commission Attorney Chris Gill replied it's the owners choice to build the ADU and he would have to live with it." I don't think this will turn it into a pure rental because the City can go back and enforce it. When (a violation) comes to the City's attention we can bring an action in municipal court against the owner." Commissioner Bob Clark complained the ordinance had not yet "seen the light of day" (not enough public scrutiny): " I agree. It turns all of Old Fairhope into rental property. People need to know about this; it will change the character of a great part of Fairhope if it's adopted. I was stunned." In reply Moore praised what he called the "very public nature" of the process: "(I don't think) having 5 public meetings and numerous updates /discussions at commission meetings. . . can be characterized as never seeing the light of day. . ." Commissioner Lee Turner: "Up until about 5 years ago, you could do all this all anyway--then the Council passed an ordinance prohibiting it." Commissioner Charles: "Clear rights of succession ought to be wrought out by legal staff before sending it to the Council." Attorney Gill responded: "Every citizen is deemed to have 'constructive knowledge' of every town ordinance." Commissioner(Mayor) Kant--who rarely attends Planning Commission meetings-- asked Moore what other communities our size he looked at as examples; expressed concern about its increasing popultion density; and worried that "the 'work force' and college kids" may become the predominant occupants. Kant also voiced concern about potential added costs to the City (more staff for enforcement?). A Bayview Ave. resident from the audience spoke and expressed concerns about the character of potential occupants as well and opined, "its just another way for people to make money. I don't want rental property surrounding me. . . There are more creative ways of providing low cost housing." Commissioner Charles commented, "Its not a perfect document. The City Council will have another public hearing and act on it." Commissioner Turner made a motion to approve the ordinance and send it to the City Council: seconded by Moore. Commissioner Slade said she was "more for than against it"-- but thought, "It's not ready to go to the Council . . . needs more work." Moore said he was ok either way: "I don't have a personal stake at all. if it's approved, it's approved; if not, it's not (further adjusting can be done)" Before the (tie) vote, City Planner Johnathan Smith again commented this was being done to satisfy requirements in the Comp. Plan; and he would proceed however the Commission directed. [Usual Chairman Jean Wilson was not present: Vice Chair Dick Charles presided]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I dont think we need more density. just put mama in the nursing home instead.