The Annapolis City Council members could force a final vote Monday on whether to legalize accessory dwelling units in all single-family zoning districts, a move the sponsors say will take a small step toward improving housing affordability.
The ordinance, O-9-21, sponsored by Aldermen Brooks Schandelmeier, D-Ward 5, and DaJuan Gay, D-Ward 6, has been crawling through the legislative process since it was introduced in March. It would allow a maximum of one independent living space — known by numerous names like secondary suites and in-law apartments — to be located on the same lot as a detached single-family home.
So far, two council standing committees, Economic Matters and Housing and Human Welfare, have voted for the bill. The Rules and City Government Committee delayed a vote on the bill last month and is expected to take it back up on Thursday.
Because at least 90 days have elapsed since it was introduced, the council either has to vote on it Monday or delay the vote, otherwise it will die and need to be reintroduced.
”This bill has been debated a lot,” Schandelmeier said. “I think we know where everyone stands.”
ADUs can be converted portions of an existing home, such as a converted garage or basement apartment, an addition or a stand-alone structure, like a guest house.
Among the other requirements in the bill are, an 850-square-foot limit on livable space, one off-street parking space for every unit and a rental license for any unit the owner wishes to rent out. ADUs could not be used as short-term rentals under the bill.
Supporters have argued the bill seeks to regulate a part of the city’s housing stock that already exists. In theory, it would achieve two other objectives, including providing living space for residents who may not be able to afford a traditional rental apartment and making mortgage payments more affordable for current and future homeowners.
The bill features seven proposed amendments, the result of compromises made with skeptical colleagues, and the Planning Commission.
Alderwoman Elly Tierney, D-Ward 1, has sponsored an amendment that would require the ADU and the property’s principal structure to have common ownership, an attempt to stop investment groups from buying up ADUs. A second Tierney-sponsored amendment would delay the effective date of the ordinance by 90 days until January 10, 2022, to allow existing ADUs to be inventoried and inspected.
Accessory dwelling units have been a hot subject on the council for at least two years.
In 2019, Gay and Schandelemeier’s predecessor, Marc Rodriguez, sponsored a version of the bill that was later withdrawn because of a lack of consensus among council members and after being criticized as “flawed” by the Planning Commission.
This summer, the Planning Commission published a report in support of O-9-21. It suggested two amendments. One recommended the removal of the off-street parking space requirement for each ADU and the other would allow the units to be used as short-term rentals.
The parking requirement will make accessory units harder to build and would come with no resultant impact on available parking, the commission wrote, adding that the city’s permit parking system could be a good workaround.
As for allowing ADUs to be used as a short-term rental, the commission wrote: “The tension between ADUs and STRs can be resolved by permitting short-term rentals only on owner-occupied properties. Such property owners are “more engaged with the community” and can monitor the short-term rental more closely.
If it passes, a report would be filed to the commission annually that identifies the number and location of accessory dwelling units.
Three other items up for a final vote Monday include a lease agreement between the city and Verizon Wireless to install small cell wireless facilities throughout the city, and an ordinance authorizing the city to issue and sell general obligation bonds for up to $36.3 million.
Proceeds from the sale would be used to pay for ongoing capital projects in the city, including general roadway improvements, traffic sign rehabilitation and city facility improvements.
A resolution requiring the Department of Planning and Zoning to hold a public meeting for the general public to be heard on the South Annapolis Yacht Center fence
application will also be up for a final vote.