Commission OKs Accessory Dwelling Units

New amendment to zoning regulation allows for rentable spaces in certain areas

By Molly Priddy

The Flathead County Commission voted unanimously to accept a new amendment to the county’s zoning rules that allows rentable accessory dwelling units in certain county zones.

The vote came during a Dec. 9 hearing, during which the commission considered the public comment garnered on the issue.

Accessory dwelling units (ADU) are defined as a single, habitable living unit added to, created within, or detached from a principal single-family dwelling. These units must provide the basic “requirements for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.”

ADUs must be equipped for stays of 30 or more days, and can be no larger than 40 percent of the floor area of the principal dwelling. One ADU is permitted per tract of record and may be rented to the general public.

The units were devised at the planning board level, as a way to allow homeowners to make money on their personal property, while also adding more affordable housing to the Flathead.

An ADU is now a permitted to use in various zones, including agricultural, suburban-agricultural, and residential. In certain residential zones, an ADU is an option under a conditional use permit.

Adding ADUs to the Flathead County Zoning Regulations first came through to the commission from the Flathead County Planning Board on Nov. 17, but the commission tabled the issue to further discuss public comment.

Staff at the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Department reported receiving numerous comments from the public on the ADU issue, many of them in the form of postcard or emails composed by local nonprofit Citizens for a Better Flathead, which opposed the measure as written.

As a group, Citizens for a Better Flathead opposed the amendment, saying it could have unintended consequences for landowners. The organization suggested requiring that neighborhoods or zoned areas petition to show support for ADUs, and asked that the county require owner occupancy in the primary building so the rentals are well managed.

CFBF had a host of other suggestions for the amendment, including adding more standards and definitions for certain issues, like noise, lights, blocked views and more.

The commission didn’t change the amendment, noting that if problems with ADUs arise in the valley, the regulation can be adjusted as needed.

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