Public hearing Monday for accessory dwelling units

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Polk County residents will have a chance Monday, April 20 to voice their opinions on whether the county should amend its zoning ordinance to allow accessory dwellings on the same property in some zoning districts.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners is considering the amendment to promote affordable housing.

The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, April 20 at the beginning of the commissioners’ regular meeting.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Commissioners have said they want to hear from the public in order to decide which districts want the provision.

Polk County Planner Cathy Ruth said the recommendation stemmed from commissioners requesting the planning board address affordable housing in the multiple use zoning district and to report back to commissioners by February.

Ruth said the planning board’s idea with the recommendation is to allow an accessory dwelling on a parcel. If someone has a two-acre parcel and their mother wanted to live there, for example, another dwelling would be allowed if commissioners approve the amendment.

The county’s current definitions state that a parcel can have a guesthouse but not for permanent living. An apartment is allowed in some districts, but cannot be more than 750 square feet.

Commissioner Michael Gage has mentioned his wish to have more affordable housing in the county during a few meetings.

Currently, the draft recommendation is to allow accessory dwellings in all districts. Commissioners plan to choose which districts would allow it or not following the public hearing depending on what residents say.

Ruth said the planning department has already heard from a couple of people who are concerned about the provision in their districts.

Gage also said he’s talked to some residents who are concerned for their districts. Gage said he would like to hear from them.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson also said he’s heard from some concerned residents as well, particularly in Hunting Country.

Commissioner chair Tom Pack said earlier this year commissioners are not going to force any district to allow accessory dwellings, only the districts that want them.

Gage’s original motion asked the planning board to investigate the possibility of reducing the lot size requirement in the multiple use zoning district to ½ acre parcels with public water and/or sewer for two lot and family subdivisions.

The planning board’s recommended resolution states that the Polk County 20/20 Vision Plan says housing conditions and affordability are a significant concern for the county and continuing in-migration may lead to higher land values and affordable housing will continue to be a challenge for many Polk residents, especially younger people.

The draft resolution says the ordinance shall be known as the accessory dwelling unit zoning amendment ordinance with changes to the permitted use table including allowing accessory dwelling units in the E, RE1, RE2, RE5, AR, R, MR, NC, HC, I, MU, FF and AR5 zoning districts.

An accessory dwelling unit is defined as a residential dwelling unit, including a mobile home (if permitted in the zoning district), located on the same lot as a single-family dwelling unit, either within the same building as the single-family dwelling unit or in a detached building. The parcel must be a minimum of one acre in size or the minimum required lot size of zoning district, whichever is greater.

Commissioners are encouraging residents to attend the public hearing in order to decide which zoning districts within the county will include the permitted use of an accessory dwelling.

Commissioners meet on the second floor of the Womack building in Columbus.