Frederick’s aldermen will consider later this month whether — and under what conditions — to allow homeowners in the city to build smaller homes on their property.
A public hearing on the city’s policies regarding accessory dwelling units is scheduled for Aug. 19 after being discussed at a workshop Wednesday afternoon. It was the aldermen’s fourth workshop on the topic dating back to December 2019.
Under the ordinance proposed by Alderman Derek Shackelford, the term accessory dwelling unit could be applied to a unit within a larger building or one that is detached from the main structure.
Shackelford’s proposal would allow one dwelling of up to 800 square feet on all single-family and duplex lots in the city. Construction of internal, attached or detached units would require a building permit from the city and be limited to two stories or the height of the main residence on the property, whichever is less.
A property owner would have to live in either the ADU or the main residence on the property, and an additional parking space would usually have to be added. Leases would have to be for at least 90 days.
While an ADU on a residential property would be allowed through a building permit, one on a nonresidential lot would be considered a conditional use and be required to be integrated into the main building.
An ADU added as part of an existing building could not be more than 35 percent of the gross floor area of the main building, and any separate entrance would have to be on the rear of the building or a side that does not face the street.
The exterior products used to build a detached unit would have to be the same as those used to build the main structure and include various design standards, unless the Planning Commission changes the rules.
Alderman Roger Wilson asked Director of Current Planning Gabrielle Collard what impact the units might have on affordable housing in the city.
Studies haven’t shown that ADUs are significantly more affordable than apartments or other multi-family housing units, Collard said, but the more places where you can create housing options, the better.
“It’s a tool in that toolbox,” she said.
One piece of legislation won’t solve the problem of affordable housing, Shackelford said, but allowing ADUs would provide options for seniors to stay in place as they age, or for young workers the city want to keep in Frederick.
“This is just an opportunity for another option,” he said.
Alderman Kelly Russell said that while not everyone in a neighborhood will build an ADU, if they did, it could double the density in a neighborhood from what’s allowed by zoning.
Alderman Ben MacShane said he doubts too many city residents would choose to build units, especially in more expensive neighborhoods. MacShane said he had “no fear that this will be a widespread phenomenon, popping up left and right.”
Wilson asked whether the city would keep a registry or database of the units to help with code enforcement issues. No registry is being proposed, and the city’s code enforcement policy is generally driven by complaints that are received, Collard said.
With the public hearing scheduled for Aug. 19, Mayor Michael O’Connor urged the aldermen to get any further proposed changes in “post haste.”