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Othello approves accessory dwelling unit rules

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 3, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — After almost two and a half years of discussion, Othello City Council members passed an ordinance allowing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units in some residential areas.

Council members approved, 5-2, an ordinance governing ADUs at the Oct. 25 council meeting. Council members Cory Everett and Mark Snyder voted no.

Accessory dwelling units will be allowed in areas where multi-family housing is allowed, in areas zoned R-2, R-3 and R-4. They will not be allowed in residential areas zoned R-1, which is restricted to single-family homes.

Under the ordinance, ADUs will be a maximum of 900 square feet and two bedrooms. Landowners must provide off-street parking for two cars. Only one ADU will be allowed per single-family home. Only one ADU is allowed per development site, no matter how many houses are on the site.

The ADU will be required to have a sidewalk or paved walkway connecting it with the street. It must have its own utility connections and address.

When an ADU is built, the owner of the property must live in either the primary residence or the ADU for at least one year.

Accessory dwelling units were prohibited in Othello prior to the approval of the ordinance, but over time some homeowners constructed them anyway. So the ordinance includes a mechanism allowing homeowners to legalize existing ADUs.

The Oct. 25 meeting included a public hearing on the ordinance, which didn’t draw any public comment except from Othello resident Chris Dorow. Dorow is the chair of the Othello Planning Commission, but he said he was speaking as a resident in his testimony. He was opposed to ADUs when city officials first started discussing them, he said. What changed his mind was the need for housing in Othello, he said. He also said it could be revised, if needed.

Council members discussed the ordinance at length, with Everett strongly opposed to the idea. He said ADUs will lead to a decrease in property values in neighborhoods where they are built.

Council member Jon Erickson said he didn’t like the idea either at first, and implementing the ordinance will bring some challenges. But he said the council could modify the ordinance as needed to make it work.

Council member Angel Garza said Othello needs housing, and for that reason he supported it. Garza is building a housing development and council member John Lallas asked if the development had a covenant prohibiting ADUs. Garza said ADUs weren’t allowed in the development, and Everett said that showed ADUs reduced property values. Garza said it wasn’t necessarily true.

Mayor Shawn Logan said he, too, originally was against ADUs, but the lack of housing in Othello changed his mind. City officials commissioned a housing study earlier this year, and Logan said while he knew housing in Othello was in short supply, he didn’t realize how little housing was available until he saw the conclusions of that study.

Council member Maria Quezada said while Everett made a good argument, Othello needs housing and she supported the ordinance.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.