By Vanessa McCray
TRAVERSE CITY — ADU, again?
It's the city planning debate that keeps knocking at the door.
The Traverse City planning commission will discuss allowing accessory dwelling units, or granny flats, in two neighborhoods. The dwellings — often built above a garage as a small guest house or created on a floor of the main house — caused debate in past years. City planners previously recommended the units be allowed, with certain conditions, but the city commission rebuffed the idea amid traffic, parking and privacy concerns.
Now, a new ADU plan is under consideration to allow homeowners in the Kids Creek and North Traverse Heights neighborhoods to build the dwellings. The planning commission meets today at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center to discuss, but not act, on the proposal.
"In our master plan we talk about housing options and accessory dwelling units certainly provide an option for people. It helps them in (a) couple of ways," said city Planner Russ Soyring.
The smaller units can offer more diverse, affordable housing and also potential income to homeowners looking to make ownership less expensive, he said.
A 2008 affordable housing report accepted by the city commission recommended consideration of ADUs. City Commissioner Jody Bergman, who also serves on the planning board and its housing building committee, said the report envisioned revisiting the ADU discussion within a few years.
That time has come.
"We've worked through a lot of the recommendations of the report," Bergman said. "Let's look at this again."
The current ADU proposal includes numerous conditions, including limiting the units to five per year in the city and requiring the homeowner to live in one of the two units. Lots must be at least 5,000-square feet and only one ADU is allowed per parcel for a maximum of two dwellings.
City officials attended neighborhood meetings to gauge reaction to ADUs and determined the Kids Creek and North Traverse Heights neighborhoods were most receptive to the idea. Residents in North Traverse Heights generally were supportive "of evaluating the idea and looking at it further," said the association's President Mike Powers.
"A lot of people started to recognize this could be a better situation for rentals," he said.
Rental issues triggered some concern among residents, but ADUs include regulations and also opportunity to meet families' needs, he said.
"I think it makes a lot of sense. I think there (is) more information needed," Powers said.
Portions of both neighborhoods under consideration are zoned for two-family use, but the proposed ADU ordinance would provide a little more flexibility in where second dwellings could be built on the property, Soyring said.
Presently, Traverse City allows temporary ADUs by special land use permit. The dwellings are permitted for those with financial, medical or other special needs but must be removed when that need no longer exists.
The planning commission could agree today to formally consider the ADU ordinance amendment. If it does, a public hearing is required in front of the planning board. Planners then could recommend the change to the city commission for approval.