Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

April 24, 2013

Editorial: Starting small a smart solution

After at least one failed start, Traverse City has finally found a place to try out an idea that has been percolating for a couple years now — allowing homeowners in one neighborhood to create small, self-contained apartments inside their home or garage.

The apartments, more known commonly as granny flats, or officially as accessory dwelling units, will give homeowners a chance for additional income.

Residents are required to live in the house. The units must have a minimum 250 square feet per person, onsite paved parking and an outdoor entrance. Homeowners can convert up to 40 percent of the dwelling — including a garage — as a separate living space for non-family members.

A proposal to allow ADUs citywide ran into strong opposition a couple years ago, particularly from the Central Neighborhood, where there were worries that many of the neighborhood’s iconic garages would be converted into apartments.

Many homeowners in the North Traverse Heights neighborhood, bounded by Eighth Street, Garfield Avenue, Centre Street and Boardman Lake, were supportive of the idea, so the city agreed to try it out there. That buy-in will be key to making this work; it’s important the concept has local traction. Up to five homeowners per year can sign up.

The city has to pay attention to how this works. Homes in North Traverse Heights can be relatively small, and close together. The behavior of renters, and the added congestion from more cars and more people in a neighborhood setting can be a problem. The city has to be prepared to pull the plug on the ADU experiment if there are ongoing problems.

What’s more likely is that homeowners in other areas will want to join in, which presents its own issues: How much is too much?

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