When it comes to accessory dwelling units, the city of Frederick is playing catch-up. Numerous jurisdictions around the country have eased restrictions on what were once known as granny flats, garage apartments or in-law suites, looking for a low-impact way to increase density and address the need for affordable housing. Montgomery County modified its ordinances earlier this year, making it easier to add accessory units in single-family zones. And Frederick County is even further out front — passing a pair of bills more than a year ago that streamlined the process and waived some fees so that it’s easier for homeowners to tuck a tiny house in their backyard.

Not that everyone wants one in their backyard — or, more specifically, their neighbor’s backyard. The push for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) has prompted plenty of pushback around the country, mostly from older, well-off homeowners worried about property values. For instance, in Montgomery County the hearings with filled with angry testimony accusing the council of betraying of the American Dream and there were plenty of dog-whistle letters to the editor decrying “demographic change.”

But will the city’s attempt to encourage ADUs — currently almost impossible to add to existing residential lots — manage to avoid the messy acrimony of Montgomery County? It remains to be seen. Frederick County’s changes did pass easily (despite “no” votes from two then-councilmen who otherwise championed the right of property owners to do as they pleas), but after watching the recent debates surrounding the adequate public facilities ordinance, residential height restrictions and the “McMansion on Magnolia,” I suspect there are some homeowners out there anxious “to prevent the urbanization of city neighborhoods” as a pair of height-restriction advocates put it.

Personally, I’m a little worried that when it comes to Frederick’s most urban neighborhood, the push for ADUs may not do enough. No language has been drafted, but the summary submitted by Alderman Derek Shackelford earlier this month did list some possible ordinance inclusions — mostly regarding minimum lot size eligible for ADUs and the maximum lot coverage for the accessory unit — that would all but eliminate the possibility of adding accessory units downtown. It seems shortsighted, amidst concerns over gentrification and a lack of affordable housing downtown, to make ADUs off-limits.

Allowing ADUs isn’t all that could be done to boost the number of affordable units downtown, either. Currently, the county’s ADU provisions waive school impact fees for accessory dwelling units of less than 800 square feet, since their occupants rarely include school-age children. Extending that waiver to include micro-unit apartments — studios and efficiencies targeted at singles or childless couples and often 400 square feet or less — could facilitate a far greater increase in affordable-housing inventory than one-off accessory units (not that both don’t have a role to play). Waiving the fees for micro units could also make many smaller infill and renovation projects more viable, especially downtown’s many vacant upper floors, and help offset the loss of rental units over the last two decades as many of downtown’s larger town houses, previously divided into apartments, have been renovated back to single family.

(12) comments

petersamuel

There’s no doubt a strong demand for small housing units downtown and City code should be amended to allow that. Accessory Detached Dwelling Units (ADDUs) as they’re called can help satisfy a housing demand while earning property owners some extra income. A win-win. ADDUs in the Historic District (District) are both more desirable and more doable than ADDUs elsewhere in the City.

1. The District gained its character before anyone had thought of land use zoning. And so it developed unplanned as a mixed use area. It is far more heterogeneous than the rest of the City. Its range of lot sizes varies much more. And in its people it has a greater diversity of incomes, ethnicity and social status. It has alleyways and informal shared parking and access, and long, narrow lots more conducive to ADDUs. It is therefore the natural place to have ADDUs.

2. There’s a public interest in more downtown housing which ADDUs can help to provide. City plans adopted by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen after being compiled with the help of staff and consultants and subjected to public consultation repeatedly stress the benefits of higher population density downtown and infill development. Without requiring demolition ADDUs can add to density downtown. And they are the epitome of infill.

3. Downtown has a wide range of services and to the extent the County and City have a center or hub the District is it. More housing downtown should improve accessibility to services and assist downtown business with nearby employees and customers. ADDUs will enable more people to share in downtown, and take advantage of its assets. They will help implement walkability, and enable reduced car use, things constantly advocated in City plans.

4. People living in the District have to have a higher tolerance for ‘externalities’ — neighbor noise, quirky juxtapositions of land use and architecture, large numbers of visitors etc. So there should be less resistance to ADDUs here than in tidier neighborhoods that developed with zoning and greater segregation of land uses.

5. The City has in the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) an established agency for expert adjudication and public consultation to regulate ADDUs. Every new ADDU or repurposing will under existing Historic District guidelines and code require HPC approval. Approval is dependent on the ADDU applicant satisfying the Commission in advertised public hearings that the proposed building will be compatible with neighboring buildings and that it meets green-space standards. It provides a forum for neighbors or others opposed to the ADDU to articulate their opposition. Everything is in place to consider the concerns of those skeptical of ADDUs, or opposed to one.

LeBlancp01

It amazes me that this issues has bobbled up as I find very little information about requests or application for Zoning of same. Also, I find it interesting that there is no mention in the article of the 150+ Airbnb/VRBOs that Zoning is not regulating in Frederick City. Some of the following should in included the article as "being Code and enforcing is " is currently a suggnificatent issue in Fredercik.

_____________________________

Frederick Airbnb regulation – New Information - No LMC document exempting Airbnb regulations

The question is does Frederick City Zoning regulate Short-Term Rentals (Airbnb) types of properties per LMC, or not. The answer is YES.

Contrary to what the City Zoning is telling property owners and the public, Frederick City’s Land Management Code (LMC) does regulate Short Term Rental (Airbnb) businesses as Tourist Home. There is no LMC documents that says otherwise and in fact many documents that do define the regulations. The City has documented this in the Definitions part of the LMC and elsewhere In addition there are numerous Public Information Act (PIA) requests that indicate the City does not have document that exempts “dwelling that provide or offer lodging to Transient Guest” from Conditional Use and being Tourist Homes.

The City’s Land Management Code defines a dwelling in which, for compensation, lodging only is provided or offered to not more than nine transient guests as a Tourist Home. The definition of a Transient Guest in the LMC is a tenant who obtains lodging or lodging and meals… for… not more than four months. Bed and Breakfast is defined similarly except they may also serve Breakfast. LMC does not have any other language that exempts these dwelling from being Tourist Homes, Bed and Breakfast Inns and the requirement for Conditional Use Approve as defined in the LMC

The City’s Zoning Administrative staff has been interpreting the LMC using language that is not in the LMC and is not using language that is in the LMC for its interpretation. Zoning in effect is overriding the Code written by the Alderman without approval or authority. Zoning has been inappropriately informing property owners, City Management and Elected Official that there is no regulation for Short Term Rentals (Airbnb). They do not fully except that Airbnbs/VRBO marketing is offering or providing lodging to transient guests as defined in the LMC and that these properties uses are Tourist Homes. They claim is that there are two significant exceptions as to why a dwelling providing Lodging to transient guests are not Tourist Homes or required to be follow regulations. The two exception per Zoning are; 1) if dwelling is not occupied by the owner or 2) the entire dwelling is being used. These claims have no merit. Both exemption claims are unfounded and not defined in the LMC. Per their own responses to Public Information Act requests there are no documents supporting these claims.

Without regulation enforcement this mean any dwelling can be used for lodging of Tourists/Transient Guests without any knowledge by anyone. No notification of neighbors, no consideration for parking, no guest registration, no limit on the encroachment of business into neighborhood, including activities such of parties, and or weddings, no recognizing that ANYONE can book and stay in any dwelling without any appropriate oversite.

Currently there are ~150 Airbnb/VRBO properties in Frederick that are not permitted via Conditional use regulations and the residents of Frederick have no insight of same.

Oddly, Frederick Zoning and the ZBA has regulated only one Airbnb as a Tourist Home and it is on East 2nd.

Having noted all the above. please get involved and insist that the Mayor and Zoning following the LMC as written. Tourist Home (Short Term Rental (Airbnb)) regulations should be enforced.

If you have any interest in the lack of enforcement of the LMC, please contact Phillip LeBlanc via email at leblancp01@gmail.com

mr_twist27

I have heard very little demand for ADUs within Frederick. I see no reason to change the zoning laws just to appease a couple people. Additionally, they are plenty of lower income housing options in and all around the downtown area. I'm getting tired of social warriors constantly pushing for low income housing everywhere.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

DickD

When you buy a home you look at schools, taxes the neighborhood and zoning. Schools are not likely to change with ADUs. Taxes are certain to increase some. The neighborhood will change. If done right it can be better. If not, it will be worse. Zoning will be a issue. If you buy a home not expecting or wanting a ADU,you would fight it. As it might lower the value of existing homes and not all wanting a ADU for themselves or next to them, how would you compensate them?

Dwasserba

I could be happy living in my backyard. I planned it, I planted it, I like looking at it, would like not to have to do all the maintenance, would not mind as much if there were less to do with the house. Basically we live in two rooms downstairs and our bedroom. At night. And the front porch (seasonal). Until visitors come. If I haven't brought values down living in the bigger house 40some years, why would moving to my backyard do it.

MD1756

I wouldn't really care about the value of the home (in fact I'm generally happy when my property value goes down becuase I am taxed less). I care more about the density or more people living per lot in the neighborhood. I don't live in a city for a reason, I wouldn't want my neighborhood rezoned to pack more people in.

public-redux

If a neighbor’s ADU increased the value of your home, should you compensate your neighbor who incurred all the expense?

DickD

[lol] How would you determine the new value vs. what it would have been without the ADU.

public-redux

Dick wrote “As it might lower the value of existing homes ” and then wonders how to determine how to determine how an ADU might change property values.

DickD

Maybe I should have specified how much loss in value, Gladys. That was my opinion and I thought you of all people would understand.

public-redux

I don’t understand your response. On the one hand, you think an ADU in a neighboring property might reduce the value of your property and wonder how you should be compensated. I asked the mirror image question: If an ADU in a neighboring property increases the value of your property, should you compensate the neighbor. And instead of addressing the question, you seem to be suggesting that one could ascertain the amount of a decrease in value but not an increase. Why wouldn’t the method work in both directions? And why should there be compensation in one situation but not the other?

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