CHARLEVOIX — Affordable housing is in short supply, and Charlevoix's city officials are in search of viable solutions.
One of those solutions could be ADUs, also known as accessory dwelling units — a small outbuilding that can function as anything from a guest apartment to an art studio, an extra bedroom or a home office.
In another step toward solving the city’s housing problems, Charlevoix’s planning commission is recommending approval of regulations making accessory dwelling units easier to build in residential areas.
"It's all about providing more housing units for the City of Charlevoix," said Charlevoix Zoning Administrator Jonathan Scheel when speaking about the reason for the proposed ordinance changes.
According to city officials, accessory dwelling units facilitate greater property usage in residential districts and can provide extra space for growing families, enable multi-generational homes, and support those in their pursuit of private, familial caretaking. ADUs can also help those seeking to diversify their income sources, as they can serve as rentals.
While property owners may find interest in economically optimizing their land, the increase of housing stock can also enhance the community at large, according to Scheel. With accessory units being smaller in size than the principal dwelling, ADU rents can be more affordable and better suited for those working in Charlevoix than renting a traditional single-family house. Increased housing options broadly help to move the market to equilibrium, better matching prospective tenants with options that fit their desired square footage and rent costs, said Scheel. Properties with accessory dwelling units are typically valued higher than those without, according to city documents.
At a meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend adoption of the updated ordinance to city council.
For over a year, the planning commission has worked to revise the current zoning ordinance language for these structures in hopes of facilitating their growth while at the same time maintaining the city's housing aesthetic.
"This past year was spent on design regulations to ensure that any ADU structure fits in with the architecture of our town," Scheel said.
Currently, accessory dwelling units are exclusively permitted in the city’s R2-Medium Density Residential Zoning District. However, the planning commission is recommending they also be allowed in the R1 zoning district.
Some of the other proposed changes are an increased side yard setback (from 5 feet to 8 feet in the R2 zoning district and 10 feet in the R1 zoning district) and an increased height allowance (from 16 feet to 17.5 feet).
Property owners can use their ADUs as short-term rentals, provided they (or, if the new ordinance passes, a long-term renter) live onsite, follow the proper short-term rental registration procedures, and the short-term rental cap has not been hit in their residential district.
Constructing an accessory unit requires all the necessary zoning and building permits required for primary dwellings. The city recommends those interested in building an ADU contact the planning and zoning department to learn more information or schedule a pre-application meeting if already planning construction.
A zoning permit issued from the city is required before construction begins. Zoning permits ensure prospective structures are built to the standards contained within the City of Charlevoix Zoning Ordinance, are harmonious in design with the surrounding neighborhood, and have uses as permitted in the respective zoning districts, according to the city's website.
All dwellings must comply with the state's construction code, and hold required building permits as necessary from Charlevoix County, including building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and more.
To learn more about building permits required for construction in Charlevoix County, visit www.charlevoixcounty.org.
To read the proposed ADU ordinance, to get more information on zoning permits or to view the city's zoning map, visit www.charlevoixmi.gov.
For questions about ADUs, contact Jonathan Scheel, zoning administrator, at (231) 547-3265 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: City ordinance aims to make accessory dwelling units easier to build