Two: That’s the number of times Renee Mitchell, a former councilwoman, used the word “sleazy” to talk about the Missoula City Council’s recent work.
The topic? Granny suites, or “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, or in-law units, or abominations, although I may be paraphrasing with the last description.
“Don’t concoct some sleazy way to circumvent the law,” Mitchell said of the council’s work to change the way it notifies people of zoning changes.
Here’s my most recent story on the houses.
The council is talking about loosening the rules for ADUs, and some folks who don’t like those homes or don’t want them in their neighborhoods want to be sure everyone gets a certified letter when changes are proposed.
The council is also talking about ways to notify people. It has asked the Office of Planning and Grants to draft a new way to inform people of possible zoning changes so that whatever type of rezone it is, the notification requirements are the same.
All that’s pending, but Wednesday in Council Chambers, the Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee took up the idea of allowing ADUs in more places in town, and it sounds like Councilman Bob Jaffe will keep the item on the agenda. Here it is:
Direct OPG Staff to draft an amendment revising the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) provisions of Title 20 with the following provisions and to refer the amendment to the Planning Board for review: Revise Chapter 20.45 Missoula Municipal Code entitled, “Accessory Uses and Structures” to allow ADUs by right in all zoning districts that allow residential uses where one of the dwelling units is owner occupied; revise Chapter 20.60 Missoula Municipal Code to reduce required parking to one parking space for a second primary dwelling unit on a parcel that contains no more than two dwelling units, totaling three required parking spaces for the two units. This would apply to two single detached units or a two-unit house. OPG staff is directed to draft these changes as text amendments to Title 20 and to include a finding of fact and conclusion of law in the staff report indicating the amendments are text amendments. (memo) (PAZ) (Returned from Council floor: 4/23/2012)
This conversation isn’t going to be fast, and it may stay fiery.
“Please put this proposal where it belongs, and that’s in the trash,” said John Snively to the committee.
Jerry Ballas, also a former councilor, said there’s no reasonable way to enforce occupancy standards. He requested the council publish a map in the newspaper to show everyone the changes.
Marsha Frey called the idea “dishonest.”
“You are in essence overriding existing zoning in single family neighborhoods,” and homes are a family’s biggest investment, she said.
Councilors and staff have been clear that proposals for changes are rezones. The rub is the type of rezone – ’cause different types trigger different notification requirements. But perhaps not for long.
Myra Shults doesn’t like ADUs either, and with parking already a problem at some rentals in her neighborhood, she doesn’t support the parking provision.
“The parking is unbelievable. Nobody parks on their property. They park on the streets,” Shults said.
Councilor Jon Wilkins earlier pointed out the same thing on a tour of his neighborhood.
Another man whose name I didn’t catch doesn’t want ADUs either: “I hope you knock this thing in the head.”
The conversation will surely involve head-knocking this summer. And a lawsuit?
That’s what Lyn Hellegaard, another former councilor, believes the proposal will yield.
“I can almost bet you’re going to be sued over this,” Hellegaard said, especially because some homeowner associations already aren’t happy.
What else? “You’re going to lose.”
It won’t be the first time, of course. Years ago, a judge found the city was wrong when it allowed people to build homes on lots smaller than zoning allowed, the “boundary line relocation” method of infill.
But when they were still in office, Hellegaard, Mitchell and current Councilor Dick Haines sued the city over the zoning rewrite. And they lost that one.
It’ll be interesting to see how the ADU discussion evolves. It frequently sounds like an all or nothing kind of conversation to me, but I’m sure there are things the council can do to allow some more of those but not let it get to 100 percent build out.
One distraction in this debate is the “it’s-all-happening-in-secret” allegation. It’s so tiresome, and I think folks who wave that flag are just damaging their own credibility. I mean, if you’re showing up at a meeting about it over and over again, it’s not all that secret, is it?
And Councilor Bob Jaffe, who at least on the gas tax topic admitted he doesn’t have the greatest patience for long processes, also has said he wants this ADU conversation to get fully aired out, and he wants the committee to take its time on it, so this matter is going to run its course over numerous meetings and public hearings.
I’m looking for some good angles on this topic. I’ve got a few ideas, but if you have some, too, please feel free to share. Keila.Szpaller@missoulian.com. @keilaszpaller. Here in a comment.
— Keila Szpaller