City Council Approves Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance

An ordinance approved earlier this week means Charlotte could soon see more Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in both new and existing neighborhoods throughout the city. The change, which was supported by REBIC, will help increase both the diversity and supply of Charlotte’s stock of affordable housing, and provide a greater variety of living options for multi-generational households.

As defined by the Charlotte Zoning Ordinance, ADUs are a “second dwelling unit … located within the principal detached dwelling or within a separate accessory structure.” To qualify as a “dwelling,” the unit must include both kitchen and bathroom facilities and be intended for use as a year-round residence. ADUs are not uncommon — basement and garage apartments already exist throughout Charlotte — but because they were previously restricted for use by the elderly and handicapped, many were not constructed legally and remain unpermitted. The new ordinance will change that by allowing anyone to rent or occupy an ADU, unless their use is specifically prohibited by a neighborhood covenant or deed restriction.

The ADU ordinance is one of the first products of the city’s Incentive-Based Inclusionary Housing Task Force, initiated last summer with the goal of increasing the supply of more affordable, workforce housing in parts of Charlotte where those options are fast disappearing. It allows ADUs as a permitted accessory use in any Single-Family, Multifamily, Urban Residential, Mixed-Use or Office/Business district, with the following restrictions:

  • The ADU shall be clearly subordinate to the principal single family detached structure.
  • No more than one ADU shall be located on a lot.
  • The ADU and the principal dwelling shall be owned by the same person.
  • The ADU shall not be served by a driveway separate from that serving the principal dwelling, unless it is within an accessory structure and located on a corner lot or a lot that abuts an alley.

An ADU located within a principal single family structure must also comply with the following requirements:

  • Limited to 35% of the total floor area of the principal structure, or a maximum of 800 heated square feet.
  • The ADU shall not be internally accessible from the principal dwelling.
  • The pedestrian entrance to the ADU shall be located to the side or rear of the structure.

An ADU located within an accessory structure must also comply with the following requirements:

  • The ADU shall have a floor area no greater than 50% of the principal structure and under no circumstances cover more than 30% of the established rear yard. In no case shall the ADU exceed 800 heated square feet.
  • The accessory structure shall be no taller than the principal dwelling.
  • The ADU shall be located in the rear yard and not be any closer than 15 feet to a rear property line or along any side property line. If the ADU is located within a garage structure and the parcel abuts an alley, the structure may be located up to 5 feet from the rear property line if the garage is accessed from the alley.
  • If a new accessory structure is being constructed, the roof and exterior wall materials and finishes of the ADU shall be similar in composition and appearance to that of the principal dwelling.

A July 18 article in the Wall Street Journal focuses on the growing trend of amending local zoning ordinances to allow ADUs, and a recent report by the American Planning Association outlines the organization’s support for the units.

You can download the ADU amendments HERE.

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