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State legislation voids Whitefish’s ADU incentives

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | September 20, 2023 12:00 AM

The Whitefish Planning Board recently approved changes to code regarding accessory dwelling units. Senate Bill 528 passed the Legislature this spring, making the changes necessary.

The bill contains a new set of regulations for ADUs and allows them to be up to 1,000 square feet where single-family homes are allowed. It also eliminates parking, building height and setback requirements.

Currently, ADU square footage is limited to 600 square feet. Whitefish has an incentive program that encourages people to rent to locals and enables ADUs to be as large as 800 square feet.

“Because of these changes, our incentive program is basically useless, because part of the incentive was to rebate impact fees, building permit fees, it could go a little bigger and you didn’t have to provide parking,” Whitefish City Planner David Taylor said, “All those things have been eliminated by the state.”

Senate Bill 528 states that additional parking, design standards and impact fees are not required for ADUs. Additionally, there are no owner-occupancy requirements and regulations for ADUs cannot be more restrictive than those for single-family homes.

“We can’t set a maximum building height or setback or lot size or minimum lot coverage or and minimal building frontages any more restrictive than a single-family home,” Taylor said. “That is a little bit concerning because it means somebody could potentially build an ADU that was up to 35-feet high.”

Currently, the code limits the height of ADUs to 26 feet. The proposed amendments to the Whitefish code also make ADUs exempt from the requirement that a detached accessory building not be built forward of the foundation of the primary building.

“Because we’re made to do this by the state, it isn’t really something that’s in conformance with our growth policy,” Taylor said. “However there are portions of our growth policy that talk about housing. This will incentivize creating more ADUs which could, potentially, create more affordable housing in the long run.”

There was no public comment on this item and the board recommended it to council with a unanimous vote.

A public hearing is scheduled before the Whitefish City Council on Oct. 2, 2023.