Positive Moves Towards ADUs

A subcommittee of the Traverse City Planning Commission has been reviewing the City’s expanded Accessory Dwelling Ordinance (ADU = Accessory Dwelling Unit) this year. At the Planning Commission’s meeting tonight they will review the proposed new language before setting a public hearing schedule for adoption in future meetings. You can review the proposed language below. The PC meets at 7:30 in the Governmental Center.

What is an ADU and Who Cares?

Fonzie lived in the Cunningham’s ADU.

ADUs are simply apartments created as an accessory to the primary dwelling unit, typically a converted garage or attached area to a house. The new language is a positive turn towards simplifying the code, reducing costly restrictions, and allowing them by right across town.  ADUs, a.k.a. Granny Flats or Fonzie Flats, help create more diverse housing stock in the City. They do this by creating smaller, less expensive rentals and by providing a supplemental income to homeowners.

Where ADUs have been successful, residents on limited income are often more able to stay in their homes. One demographic that specifically benefits are seniors, which is the fastest growing population in Traverse City. A similar trend across the country. This is one reason why the AARP is one of the leaders in promoting less-restrictive ADU ordinances.  ADUs are also commonly mentioned in housing studies and proposals. The most recent being studies provided by Networks Northwest.

I remain supportive of reducing restrictions on expanding the housing stock and diversity in Traverse City. As I’ve written before, “housing solutions, like ADUs, address the high cost of housing for people on limited incomes. In addition to potential lower housing costs, by providing more housing options closer to the core activity areas, transportation costs are reduced. When people can live closer to the core areas then driving becomes less of a necessity because they are closer to work, grocery stores, and other activities. This saves them and local governments money.” 

If you have comments or want to voice an opinion, you can email the Planning Commission and City Commission with the following: planningcommission@traversecitymi.gov, citycommissioners@traversecitymi.gov

Proposed ordinance language regarding ADUs in single family dwelling districts:

Accessory Dwelling Unit requirements:

(1) The existing site and use are substantially in compliance with this Zoning Code.
(2) There shall be a maximum limit of ten (10) Accessory Dwelling Units per calendar year.
(3) The accessory dwelling unit is allowed only on a lot having at least 5,000 square feet.
(4) Only one accessory dwelling unit per parcel is allowed with a maximum of 2 dwellings per parcel.
(5) The accessory dwelling unit is clearly incidental to the principal dwelling unit and the structures’ exteriors appear to be single-family.
(6) For new buildings or buildings that will be externally modified where such modification requires a building permit, the accessory dwelling unit’s primary entrance shall be made less visible from the street view than the main entrance of the principal dwelling unit.
(7) Individual site plans, floor plans, elevation drawings and building plans for both the proposed accessory dwelling unit.
(8) The accessory dwelling unit may not exceed forty percent of the total floor area of the principal dwelling unit including the garage. The interior staircase of the accessory dwelling unit is not included in the total floor area.
(9) The accessory dwelling unit must have at least 250 square feet of gross floor area per dweller.
(10) The dwelling unit that is rented shall not be leased for less than three months at a time.
(11) At least one owner of record shall occupy either the primary dwelling unit or the accessory dwelling unit. The owner occupant shall meet the requirements for a minimum sixty percent principal residence tax exemption.

Related Resources

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