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Annapolis City Council delays a vote to legalize accessory dwelling units

The Annapolis City Council postponed the vote on whether to legalize accessory dwelling units in all single-family zoning districts during Monday’s meeting.

Seven voted in favor of the bill with Alderman Rob Savidge voting no and Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier abstained to vote.

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The ordinance, O-9-21, sponsored by 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.

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Councilmembers debated nearly 20 minutes during the Monday meeting whether to postpone the vote or not. Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, motioned to postponed since the Rules and City Government Committee didn’t get to finish their deliberations and add amendments.

Schandelmeier originally was against a postponement but was convinced by Alderman Fred Paone, R-Ward 2, who wanted more time to read the amendments and chair of the rules committee Sheila Finlayson, D-Ward 4, would work with his work schedule for meetings. Schandelmeier stated that he works a full-time job and can’t keep taking off to discuss this bill and all its amendments.

“We have a finite amount of time to push this forward and it has gone through several committees already,” he added. “I believe a lot of us have our minds made up on this legislation and this is an attempt to run the clock out on it.”

Paone said he wants to see what the rules committee has to say.

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“I have difficulty keeping up with all the amendments and more time will help with that but I don’t see any harm in waiting two weeks as long as we vote then,” he added.

Gay emphasized that he wanted the bill to include affordable housing.

“The way this bill is now, it is not creating affordable housing and that hurts me because I have a number of constituents that would benefit from some form of ADUs at a long-term rate,” Gay said.

During public testimony, many residents mentioned that they are in favor of amendment 3 that would allow short-term rentals for ADUs.

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 guesthouse.

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, 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 10 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 Jan. 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 Schandelmeier’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.

In other news

A lease agreement between the city and Verizon Wireless to install small cell wireless facilities throughout the city was passed 8-1 with Eleanor Tierney, D- Ward 1, voting against it.

The next City Council meeting will be on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.

Capital Reporter Brooks DuBose contributed to this article.

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