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Arlington County Expected to Expand Accessory Dwelling Regulations

by Nena Perry-Brown

Arlington County Expected to Expand Accessory Dwelling Regulations: Figure 1
A diagram of a 750 square-foot detached ADU

In 2016, DC enacted a host of revisions to the zoning code, some of which were intended to make it easier for homeowners to add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their properties. Now, Arlington County is expected to pass an ordinance that would also encourage creation of ADUs.

At the end of November, the Arlington County Board will consider an update to the county’s zoning regulations that would broaden homeowners’ opportunity to add accessory dwellings. The recommended amendments would remove the annual limit on new accessory dwellings (currently 28) in the county, remove the minimum lot size requirements for ADU construction, and allow by-right detached accessory dwellings that adhere to the maximum footprint and height allowed for accessory buildings.

If the ordinance is passed, detached accessory dwellings and family caregiver suites could be constructed to a maximum of 35 percent of the combined floor area of the suite combined with the floor area of the main dwelling, up to a maximum of 750 square feet. The entrances to the main dwelling and the accessory unit could be located on the same side of the house as long as the entrances don’t face the same direction. Accessory dwellings could also require a deed covenant and could only be constructed on lots that are otherwise owner-occupied. Any off-street parking spaces would need to be preserved.

Accessory dwellings were first legalized in the county in 2008 and the strict regulations surrounding their legalization have led to only 20 being constructed since that time (construction peaked in 2015 when 6 were built). In 2015, the County Board passed an Affordable Housing Master Plan that identified ADUs as an opportunity to expand affordable housing options — particularly where older adults are concerned.

“The [Affordable Housing Master] Plan’s implementation framework recommended that the Zoning Ordinance regulations be revised to encourage greater opportunities for accessory dwellings, and the County Board directed staff to study accessory dwelling adjustments as one of the priority items in implementing the Plan,” the Board’s staff report reads.

While the Board will likely debate the particulars, it is expected that conversions of existing accessory buildings into ADUs will be allowed by-right. It is also possible that the square footage limit for accessory dwellings wholly within a basement will be removed entirely. If passed, the new regulations would take effect on January 1, 2018.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/arlington_county_expected_to_expand_accessory_dwelling_regulations/13248

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