Credit: Dan Schere

This story was updated at noon on July 23, 2019. In an earlier version of the story, Gwen Wright was misquoted. Also, a headline on the story, based on the misquote, was wrong.

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a zoning change allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as in-law apartments, in three residential zones of the county.

The zoning change  will allow the apartments as attached and detached structures in zones where the minimum lot size is 6,000 to 20,000 square feet. The council has been considering the change since the beginning of the year.

Detached ADUs must be limited to 10% of the lot area and no larger than 1200 square feet. Attached ADUs must be no larger than 1200 square feet; however, if the footprint of the principal structure is greater than 1200 square feet, an ADU may occupy the basement or cellar of that structure without a square footage limit.

ADU owners also must provide a parking space, except for structures within one mile of a Metro, MARC or future Purple Line light rail station.

County Planning Director Gwen Wright said in an interview that the ADU change could mean about 100 more units in the county.


“If we get an additional hundred per year, I think we’d feel fortunate,” she said.

The majority of those would be inside units, rather than detached units, she said.

In a separate interview, Wright said Montgomery County’s estimated housing need for the next decade or so is 38,000 additional units of all types.


Council President Nancy Navarro, following the vote, said the measure will provide a source of affordable housing for retirees and millennials, or those in their 20s and 30s.

“This vote is just one step. It’s one tool that we need,” she said.

Aleksandra Rohde was one of many who protested the accessory dwelling unit measure at the council Tuesday. Photo by Dan Schere.

Council member Hans Riemer, who sponsored the bill, said the measure has “removed the highest barriers” to affordable housing.


“The cost of housing has changed the conversation about what tools are available for them [Montgomery County residents] to do that, because they are being priced out and shut out,” he said.

County Executive Marc Elrich opposed the bill on the grounds that it would lead to increased traffic in neighborhoods and school crowding and cause aesthetic problems related to increased storm water runoff.

More than 15 people opposed to the measure attended Tuesday’s council meeting, some carrying signs of protest. Aleksandra Rohde wore a shirt with the words “ZTA 19-01 Vote No!,” referring to the number of the bill.


Dan Schere can be reached at