Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

April 1, 2013

'Granny flats' make a comeback in Traverse City

Public input sought on accessory dwelling units

TRAVERSE CITY — TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners are set to hear debate on whether to allow accessory dwelling units, widely known as granny flats, but also called artist lofts or backyard units, at an April 15 meeting. 

The public is invited to speak at the 7 p.m. meeting. ADUs originally were to be addressed today, but the topic will be tabled for two weeks because a commissioner will be absent from tonight’s meeting, City Manager Ben Bifoss.

If commissioners unanimously agree to support the proposal, up to five ADUs would be allowed per year in the Traverse Heights neighborhood, beginning April 25. 

The city investigated on several occasions allowing residents to convert parts of their single-family homes to apartments. Some residents and officials support ADUs as a way for more people to live close to downtown, while others raise concerns about parking and neighborhood impacts. ”It’s been an up-and-down issue,” Bifoss said.

Currently, the city allows temporary ADUs at a single-family dwelling intended for people with a physical, financial or emotional need.

City Planning Director Russ Soyring said the temporary ADU process requires public hearings before the planning commission and city commission, and another factor that acts as a “deterrent” to pursue them. 

“If the need goes away, then they have to disassemble the unit,” he said.

There are just two ADUs -- one permitted in 1988 and the other in 2002 -- in the entire city, said City Clerk Ben Marentette.

Soyring said the commission’s approval on April 15 would make ADUs “allowed by right,” meaning Traverse Heights single-family residences can just apply for a building permit without public hearings.

The Kids Creek neighborhood was also considered in the ADU proposal, but the city wanted more neighborhood feedback. Soyring said expanding them to other neighborhoods, or furthering their prohibition, would depend on their impact in Traverse Heights.

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