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ADU regulation changes near approval

by JULIE ENGLER
whitefish pilot | May 11, 2022 1:00 AM

After many hours reworking the regulations for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in Whitefish, the City Council on May 2 approved the first reading of an ordinance that is designed to streamline the building process and make renting the ADU to a local resident more appealing.

The changes in the regulations include allowing ADUs to be built without a conditional use permit in all zoning districts and allowing all forms of ADUs to be built, including attached, detached, or atop an existing structure. The amended ordinance also eliminates the previous owner occupancy requirement so a property owner can rent an ADU and not live in the primary building.

Additionally, there are now incentives for homeowners who volunteer to deed restrict an ADU including an increase in the size restriction from 600 square feet to to 800 square feet, no additional parking requirements and a potential reimbursement of building fees.

The deed restriction requires the ADU to be rented with a 12 month lease for a minimum of five years.

During the meeting Councilor Steve Qunell said these revised regulations have been vetted and through several public processes and it was time to act. Councilor Ben Davis agreed.

“We have debated this thing extensively for a very long time,” Councilor Davis said. “I feel good about what’s there and I would like to see it move forward.”

The Planning Staff and the Planning Board recommended the council adopt the ordinance and although Mayor John Muhlfeld and two other council members were absent from the May 2 city council meeting, the ordinance was approved unanimously on its first reading.

A second reading is scheduled for May 16 at which time the item will be on the consent agenda and may be discussed again or voted on directly.The new ordinance will be officially approved if at least four councilors vote in favor.

Planning Director Dave Taylor said, “We did receive about 20 letters of support for the changes to the ADU regulations and there were two letters that were opposed.”

According to the staff report, guidelines for design standards will be available in a booklet for prospective ADU builders that addresses how an ADU can complement the main house and provide privacy and outdoor space for the residents.