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Othello council to discuss ADU ordinance

| August 18, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — The Othello Planning Commission and Othello City Council decided to have a joint meeting to discuss a new ordinance addressing auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs), after a draft ordinance was presented at a recent city council meeting.

Auxiliary dwelling units, also called “mother in law apartments,” have been under discussion by the council and city officials since 2018.

Planning commission chair Chris Dorow and city community development director Anne Henning presented a draft ordinance to the council at its Aug. 2 meeting, but the commission and council will have another to-be-determined meeting to discuss it further.

The draft ordinance allows ADUs in areas of town zoned for duplexes (R-2) and for other kinds of multi-family housing (R-3 and R-4). New ADUs would not be allowed in the area zoned for single-family residences (R-1).

Under the draft, an ADU could be a maximum of 900 square feet and two bedrooms.

Owners would have to provide off-street parking for ADU residents, as well as parking for the primary residence. Accessory dwelling units would have to be accessible from the street or alley, and clearly marked so emergency responders can find them.

In the R-2 zone only, the property owner must occupy either the ADU or the primary residence for at least one year after construction. Dorow said that requirement is designed to ensure people who own multiple homes in a neighborhood don’t build multiple ADUs in those neighborhoods.

The ordinance does not prohibit homeowners from renting an ADU. Dorow said planning commission members wanted to give homeowners some flexibility.

Dorow also said ADUs would have to meet the same standards as other rental properties. The council passed an ordinance in February requiring landlords to apply for a license and rental property to undergo periodic inspection.

Currently, ADUs are prohibited in Othello, but, said council member Corey Everett, people build them anyway. Lallas asked how existing units would be addressed in the R-1 zone.

Henning said they would be considered a nonconforming use. However, the homeowners would have to obtain a rental license before they could rent it, Dorow said. In that case, the building would have to meet current occupancy standards.

Everett asked about replacing an ADU that was allowed under the nonconforming standard. If his house burned down he could replace it, Everett said, and he asked if an ADU could be replaced. City attorney Kelly Konkright said he would have to check.

Everett said he didn’t want ADUs bigger than the original house. He suggested using percentages instead, capping the size of the ADU at a percentage of the original house. But council member Jonathan Erickson said that would allow bigger ADUs at bigger houses.

Dorow said planning commission members talked about that, but decided they wanted to keep the regulations as simple as possible. The more complicated the regulations, the more potential for complications, he said.