Real Estate

Whitefish City Council Passes First Reading of Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance

The ordinance is intended to create additional affordable housing options for Whitefish workers and residents.

By Mike Kordenbrock
Whitefish City Hall. Beacon file photo

With only four members present, the Whitefish City Council at its May 2 meeting unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance stipulating criteria to permit accessory dwelling units in residential zones and to create incentives for renting such units to local residents through long-term leases.

The vote came with the promise that the topic would be revisited at a council meeting later in May when more members are present. The councilors who voted in favor included Giuseppe Caltabiano, Ben Davis, Frank Sweeney and Steve Qunell. Mayor John Mulfeld, and councilors Andy Feury and Rebecca Norton were all absent.

“I want to assure the public and any other member of our council that has any concerns about this and wants to bring it back off the consent agenda next time for further discussion by this council, and amendment, I will probably support this thing in that guise,” Sweeney said.

Similarly, Davis said he would support pulling the item off the consent agenda at the next meeting if members of the council wanted to discuss it further.

According to the definitions the city is using, an accessory dwelling unit is a room or rooms on the same lot as a primary dwelling that may be occupied by persons who are not members of the primary dwelling family.

Based on language in new city zoning code tied to the ordinance, the intent is to create an affordable housing option for the Whitefish workforce and Whitefish residents “that responds to downsize trends, smaller households, and provides a supplemental income stream for owners of residential property.”

The zoning code statement of purpose continues, saying that “ADUs support an efficient use of existing housing stock and public infrastructure, provide an environmentally friendly, more sustainable housing choice with less average space per person.

ADUs under the ordinance would need to have a floor area not in excess of 600 square feet and the height of a detached ADU would need to be no higher than 26 feet and not exceed two stories. One off street parking space must be provided for the ADU, in addition to the parking requirements for the primary dwelling.

If the property owner chooses for a minimum of five years to place a deed restriction for long-term lease to a local resident for at least 12 months the ADU can have an additional 200 square feet of floor space for 800 square feet total, the off-street parking requirements will be waived for the ADU, and the property owner can potentially get additional incentives, like impact building fee reimbursements.

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