Kalispell Reverses Course on Ordinance That Would Have Allowed Mother-In-Law Units

Ordinance dies at Feb. 16 meeting after passing its first reading in January; issue to be brought forward at later work session

By Maggie Dresser
Kalispell City Hall. Beacon file photo

The Kalispell City Council on Feb. 16 killed an ordinance that would have allowed accessory dwelling units (ADUs), otherwise known as mother in-law units, in certain zones of the city.

The council was considering a second reading of the ordinance after it passed the first reading a month earlier. Councilor Sid Daoud made a request to table the ordinance at a previous meeting in order to discuss the issue further at a future meeting, although he only meant to postpone the motion.

Mayor Mark Johnson called for a vote to lift the ordinance from the table to be consistent with past tabled items, but the request failed.

After the motion to lift the ordinance from the table failed, the issue now cannot be revisited under the same ordinance.

“It’s a dead issue at this point in time and it needs to be picked up as a new issue going forward,” Mayor Mark Johnson said.

The first reading of the ordinance passed in a 7-2 vote on Jan. 19, opposed by Graham and Johnson, who were concerned about added density in neighborhoods.

Councilor Ryan Hunter requested that councilors who voted in support of the ADU ordinance during the first reading explain why they voted against lifting it from the table, but no explanation was given throughout the meeting.

The ADUs are already allowed in some areas with a conditional-use permit, but the new ordinance would have allowed homeowners to build additional structures or convert garages on properties under specified guidelines.

The ordinance had received support from the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors.

Due to the complex nature of the ordinance, which has involved much discussion and several amendments including height restrictions, Kluesner requested for the council to meet in person before bringing the issue forward again to avoid confusion.

Daoud requested another work session to discuss ADUs, with Johnson, Waterman, Hunter and Gabriel in favor.

“I’m in favor of having another work session,” Johnson said. “I think part of the issue is there’s a lot of discussion we wanted to have and there were a lot of amendments coming forward and it’s a clumsy way to look at an ordinance … What it essentially does is it kills it and comes back again.”

“I think (another work session) will open a broader discussion looking at affordable housing,” Johnson added.

Correction: This story has been updated with clarifications, including procedural details about the council’s votes.

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