The Kalispell City Council passed an ordinance on Jan. 19 that will allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs), otherwise known as mother-in-law units, within certain zoning districts in the city.
The ordinance passed 7-2, with Councilor Chad Graham and Mayor Mark Johnson in opposition due to concerns about added density in neighborhoods.
While the ADUs were previously allowed in certain zones only with a conditional-use permit, the new ordinance allows homeowners to build additional structures or convert garages on properties under specified guidelines, including setback requirements, an 18-foot height limit and a 1,000-square-foot limit. It also must be a single story and limited to three parking spaces shared with the main home.
Benefits of ADUs discussed by staff and councilors during the city council meeting and previous work sessions include additional housing, secondary income for property owners, increasing occupancy of a given plot of land, and adding communal and multi-generational living.
Graham was concerned that increased density would negatively impact neighborhoods and suggested sending out a notification to all residents, which is not a typical standard for text amendments. He also suggested implementing an administrative conditional-use permit for ADUs instead.
“I really want to be able to allow those affected by that to be able to be notified of changes and possibly be able to address it to make the project better for themselves and the applicants,” Graham said. “The council sees it differently and I respect that, but I’ll be voting no.”
All other councilors voted in favor of the ordinance, although there were differing opinions regarding parking limitations. Councilors Ryan Hunter and Sid Daoud voted to eliminate the parking space restrictions, but the council voted to keep them in place to reduce parking density, particularly near Flathead High School.
“To me it’s about providing housing diversity and options, and I’m really excited because this is a market solution and adds inventory,” Councilor Kyle Waterman said. “I hear people being interested in this and I see an interest in doing this in Kalispell.”
Erica Wirtala, a representative of Northwest Montana Association of Realtors (NMAR), spoke in support of the ordinance at the virtual meeting.
“This is a terrific path to home ownership,” she said.
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