ADUs Better than Long Commutes for Recycled Tenants

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on October 21, 2017.

I generally support the loosening of regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to compensate for the dwindling supply of market rate affordable housing throughout the County.

As a tenant in one of the few remaining affordable garden apartments in Westover Village, I welcome the prospect of moving to an ADU as opposed to a flat in an outlying suburb once my building is demolished. I suspect that a lot of homeowners with limited income or uncertain employment would also welcome the prospect of a tenant on the premises to help with the mortgage.

Nevertheless I share the concerns of Suzanne Sundburg, who is critical of allowing ADUs to be constructed within 1 foot of an interior lot line. Said Suzanne in a recent email blast:

“These units can be used for short-term rental (aka Airbnb) as well as long-term rental. Exterior ADUs can be constructed within 1 foot of a shared property line — potentially closer to a neighbor’s dwelling than to the owner’s main dwelling. The result is an enhanced economic incentive to increase impervious surfaces accompanied by the loss of both green space and mature tree canopy (the remains of which is largely concentrated on single-family lots).”

The prospect of loss of privacy and increased runoff due to reduction of setbacks is likely to engender opposition to the loosened ADU regulations among single family homeowners. Add to that the fact that no impact analysis of loosened ADU regulations is publicly available.

Without a more restrictive interior lot setback requirement and an honest assessment of the impacts on streets, parking, green space and school enrollment. I don’t think the regulation is ready for prime time. I hope staff presents an impact analysis at the public hearing scheduled for this item and is prepared to negotiate it with homeowners.

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