Council Finalizes Details of Accessory Apartments Proposal
Final vote expected on July 23
After six months of work, the Montgomery County Council finalized a proposal Tuesday that would allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as in-law apartments, in three additional residential zones of the county, and scheduled a final vote for July 23.
The final version of the bill, which was introduced by County Council member Hans Riemer in January, allows the apartments in areas of the county where the minimum lot size is between 6,000 and 20,000 square feet. The zoning change mandates that the apartments are limited to half of the floor area of the house on the lot, 10% of the lot area and less than 1,200 square feet.
ADU owners are also required to provide a parking space in zones where they are currently allowed in Montgomery County. The council bill would waive this requirement in locations that are within one mile of a Metro rail station, MARC commuter station rail or station of the future light rail Purple Line.
“I think this is a step forward in terms of getting us to diversify our stock of housing, especially for young professionals, this is a great option,” said Council President Nancy Navarro following Tuesday’s meeting.
The council also discussed, but did not adopt, another amendment that would have required ADU owners to build a fence around the property in order to ensure separation from neighbors. Council member Gabe Albornoz, who sponsored the amendment, and has four young children said he wants to make sure ADU occupants have privacy.
“While I think we’ve done a good job within reason of limiting their size and scope, they [ADUs] are going to be a burden for neighbors,” he said.
Riemer countered that there may be unintended consequences that ensue from putting up fences, in that neighbors may not want a physical barrier separating the properties.
“I hear what you’re saying,” he told Albornoz, adding that neighbors have the right to build a fence if they choose to.
The ADU proposal has faced opposition from County Executive Marc Elrich, who has criticized the idea on the grounds that the presence of additional ADUs will lead to increased traffic in neighborhood, possible school crowding and that the council’s proposal does not help the county’s lowest income residents. Additionally, neighborhood associations have opposed the idea out of fear ADUs may cause aesthetic issues, potentially leading to a decline in property values.
Ellen Paul, of North Bethesda, and a member of the Luxmanor Citizens Association was one of several residents opposed to the proposal who attended Tuesday’s meeting. She wore a shirt with a design of cars traveling on zig zagging roads to illustrate her concerns over parking.
“My mother lives in Chevy Chase West… There’s no parking on the street now. So the idea on those tiny lots, doubling the number of families there … there’s no place to park now, and you’re just exacerbating it,” she said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org