03/05/2006: "PC Splits On ADUs"
(Planning Commission plays to an empty house)
In a Council room devoid of members of the public, the Planning Commission held their last meeting on a draft ordinance to limit the construction and location of guest houses (aka ADUs). After having rejected most of the proposed ordinance that was sent to them by the County Council for their review, the Commissions played around with the idea of allowing ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) to be attached to a house or to an accessory building (e.g., a garage, barn, shop, etc) as has been done in some other counties, or, should they limit them to being attached only to one allowed primary residence.
But in the end, a majority of the PC rejected the idea of adopting the same solution as used by some other rural counties, stating that to allow them would be to run the risk of having them "pop-up everywhere", and San Juan County is not as "rural" as those counties that allow them to be attached to out buildings. What seemed to push a couple of the members who had, from time-to-time, seemed to be leaning toward allowing guest houses to be constructed as long as they were attached to out buildings, was the simple fact that if they allowed them, they might actually be built.
Rather than retaining the controls that are now in the regulations, and adding additional restrictions to mitigate the visual impacts of allowing small 800 square foot attached guest houses, (which is what the Superion Court had called "structural density") they simply said that if attached to a main house, it was okay, but if attached to an out building, that was not okay.
The approach taken by the PC will not solve the concerns of those who do not want any form of guest house, and it goes well beyond what the Growth Management Board has required of the County to bring it into compliance. And while it will not increase the size of outbuildings, it will increase the size of homes that opt to have guest houses attached to them; but given the requirements to have one, it is unlikely that they will "increase the supply of an affordable, flexible and independent housing for a variety of households at all income levels" as is envisioned by the Housing Policy Act;
One rather odd provision of an adopted finding by the PC, is a requirement that if one should decide to attach a guesthouse to the house by the use of a hallway (which they want to call a "breeze way" but in fact is not) then that space will also be counted against the allowed square footage of the guesthouse. Attach the guesthouse by a three foot hallway ten feet long, and your guesthouse just got thirty square feet smaller.
The three Commissioners who argued that the impact of a house with an attached guest house is not any different than the impact on a garage, or a barn, when a guesthouse is attached to it, found their logic and arguments did not carry the day.
The Facts and Findings of the PC will be passed on to the County Council, who will conduct their own hearing, and decide how much of their original proposed ordinance they will want to retain, and what, if any, of the PC Facts and Findings they may want to add, to further tighten up on allowing guest houses in San Juan County.