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Why There Could Be A Lot More Accessory Dwellings Coming to Montgomery County

by Nena Perry-Brown

A rendering of an accessory dwelling in DC, courtesy of ArchiTextual.

Depending on who you ask, Montgomery County took a major step toward single-family houses becoming an endangered class of real estate  on Tuesday.

The County Council unanimously approved a bill which amends some of the restrictions surrounding accessory apartments. Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-01 would allow for basement accessory apartments in the county as well as detached accessory buildings in six of the seven sections of the county that are zoned as “residential detached” while removing the one-acre lot minimum requirement for these properties. 

The amendment grandfathers in any accessory building constructed before May 31, 2012 and permits the homeowner to live on the premises in either the home or the ADU. ZTA 19-01 also codifies several technical changes:

  • It removes the maximum size of basement or cellar ADUs in homes larger than 1,200 square feet.
  • It permits detached ADUs that are the smallest of 1) 1,200 square feet 2) 10 percent of the lot size or 3) half the footprint of the principal house.
  • It removes the requirement that the primary dwelling be at least five years old.
  • It removes the required distance between ADUs.
  • It removes the requirement for an additional parking space when the ADU is either in Takoma Park or is less than one mile from a Metrorail, Purple Line or MARC station.
  • It allows conversion of any legally built existing structure into an ADU.
  • It confirms that owners are not allowed to rent ADUs on a short-term basis.

Since the bill was introduced in January, a persistent cohort of county residents have demonstrated against it, citing fears of a campaign against single-family zoning and making thinly-veiled inflammatory statements about how ADUs would change the character of their neighborhoods. The county executive has also come out against ADUs, expressing in a report "fears that ZTA 19-01 would add sprawling density in areas of the County that are not well served by transit."

"ADUs are a part of the Council’s continuing efforts to ensure that affordable, quality housing is available to residents at all income levels," a council statement announcing the vote reads. "While these units alone will certainly not solve the housing crisis, they do fill an important gap and can be paired with existing rental subsidy and other potential subsidy programs to reach an even deeper level of affordability."

The changes are expected to take effect on December 31st in concert with another ADU bill dealing with licensing. A hearing on the latter bill will take place in September.

Thumbnail image from a new ADU in DC's 16th Street Heights neighborhood. 

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/why-there-could-be-a-lot-more-accessory-dwellings-coming/15695

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