Guest writer, Shannon Maris, says this about herself.
I am a residential building designer in Bellingham. I am on the front lines of people wanting to build or remodel existing buildings on their property to have a detached Accessory Dwelling Unit but it is not allowed as of yet. I get a good 10-15 inquiries each year and tell them – I’m sorry but that is not allowed in single family zoning in the City of Bellingham. I have heard all the reasons above, and I have been waiting 37 years for the possibility of remodeling an existing garage on my property into a detached accessory dwelling…. Maybe some day soon?
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The meeting listed below will discuss an update to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance. It includes allowing detached accessory dwelling units for the first time ever, not just attached accessory dwellings, as has been the historical limitation to in-fill within our city limits. Please note that this refers to in-fill where infrastructure, utilities and services already exist.
This ordinance is a great start to slowing sprawl into new “urban growth areas” that have no roads, infrastructure/utilities or services. It is a way to utilize the great ideas and work that has been done by the city to create the In-fill Toolkit. But so far, the Toolkit has only been allowed in areas already zoned multi-family or limited areas where “urban village” zoning is being tried, not in single-family neighborhoods.
It is also great news for anyone who thinks:
- Density within the existing urban core is important
- Saving resources/energy/carbon/gas is important
- It would be wise to support a well-used and alternative transit system which can be established with a dense urban core
- An increase in walk-ability and bike-abilty would be a positive step forward
- Supporting affordable housing is a good idea for our community
- They are tired of apartment living but it is all they can afford or find
Or if any of you ever thought:
- It would be nice to have my elder parent live in a cottage out back now that they are getting older.
- My kids are grown and I don’t need this big house and it would be nice to live in a small place out back and travel.
- I am an elder and things continue to get more difficult to do; it would be nice to have someone around to help out so I can stay in my home as long as possible. It would be even better if they could have their own space when they aren’t helping me.
- We are a young family, working hard and paying for childcare, and sure could use a little extra cash from renting a little studio out back to a student who can watch the kids for a couple hours before we get home from work.
- We are parents with an adult child in transition who could live above an existing detached garage.
- I’m employed and just want a little extra cash from renting a studio to one person, a senior or a single parent (50% of the current population demographic).
The latest statistics indicate a 1% vacancy rate in the Bellingham rental market now!
Imagine! Detached accessory dwellings could address all of these issues and are good for jobs, the economy, lowering taxes AND the environment! How often does that synergy happen?
The options are more of the same, more single-family houses, condominiums, apartments, duplexes, and townhouses in multi-family zoning and into the urban growth areas at the outskirts of town. This requires using more open land, more roads, increased infrastructure, more utilities, and more resources, which stretches services, increases car use and traffic, and expands land use for a population that is only 50% of the current demographic. And we all pay more taxes to maintain it.
Is allowing detached accessory dwellings a silver bullet? No, but it is a wise place to start before looking at expanding growth areas. It is an option that quite a few other towns have used successfully (note list in meeting document). It is not a new idea. The lot my house is on had a church in the front yard, I am living in the parson’s cottage and the cottage next door was the caretaker’s cottage; a total of one commercial building and two residences on the original property.
Are there concerns? Absolutely, one requirement in the guidelines is that one of the dwellings must be owner-occupied and the maximum allowable size for an ADU is 800 square feet. There are issues about height limits, maximum occupancy, parking, utility access, neighborhood character, setbacks, permit fees and process, and others. We can use other municipalities’ guidelines for ideas and review their successes and challenges in crafting the update to the existing ordinance. All of that needs input from you.
If any of the above resonates with you, or you have specific concerns, NOW is the time to send an email to the Planning Commission to be included in their meeting records for Thurs. Nov. 19. Also, please note: This is a Work Session meeting. It clearly states comments MIGHT be accepted at the meeting but only at the discretion of the Chair so don’t expect to speak if you attend!
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
To be notified of up-coming meeting and progress updates, send an email to email@example.com
NOTICE OF WORK SESSION
for the Bellingham Planning Commission
Date: Thurs. November 19, 2015
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: City Council Chambers, 210 Lottie Street
Materials: Available in the Planning and Community Development Department and at Staff Contact: Greg Aucutt, Assistant Director at 360-778-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bellingham Planning Commission will be discussing the opportunities and issues associated with the update to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance. Spoken Public Testimony: Public comment may be accepted at the discretion of the Chair. Written Public Comment: All written comments should be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed/delivered to the Planning and Community Development Department at City Hall prior to November 17, 2015 for consideration at the meeting. All comments received prior to the meeting will become part of the written record.
http://www.cob.org/meetings approximately two weeks prior to the meeting.
Other resources :
City of Bellingham : Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance Update
Planning Commission Meeting packet : Excellent history and summary of issues discussed, as well as scope for the works session meeting.
Another hard to find city of Bellingham ADU info page
Seattle Times article : 400 s.f. house ADU ordinance passed
A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…
BOOK: In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats
this is the first book to explore the many designs, uses and benefits of this time-honored and emotionally satisfying living arrangement. In-law units take many forms and they’re all shown here: attic, basement and garage conversions, bump-out additions, carve-out suites, and backyard cottages. This book covers every aspect of turning one house into two homes. http://cozydigz.com/Cozy_Digz_inlaws.html