Proposed Legislation for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

County Legislation will Expand Rental Apartments and Co-Located Houses in Suburban Communities

The Montgomery County Council is considering legislation that would significantly relax existing standards governing “accessory dwelling units” (ADU) – apartments inside single family homes and separate houses built on lots with existing homes. This legislation could have significant impacts on Rollingwood and similar suburban neighborhoods. The County Council is currently soliciting feedback on this bill. The RCA board is also interested in your thoughts to help inform any action the association may take on this legislation.

Current standards address ADU size, the relative proximity of ADUs, and parking availability. They are intended to permit ADUs while balancing neighborhood impacts.

Councilmember Hans Riemer introduced the new legislation, expressing concern that “the County’s rules treat this housing type as a nuisance to be avoided rather than a resource to be welcomed.” As an example, Councilmember Riemer points to a requirement that a second house may only be built on one-acre lots or bigger. He believes standards should be relaxed in order to provide more affordable housing, rental income for people who would not otherwise be able to afford buying a home, and housing options for family members. Councilmember Riemer also states that his bill includes community protections such as requirements that a combined structure cannot be larger than what is already allowed for a single family house. It cannot be used for short-term rentals (ie, Airbnb). And the property must be owner occupied. 

County Executive Marc Elrich recently expressed opposition to the legislation. Noting that the existing rules just became effective at the end of October 2018, Mr. Elrich stated that the legislation “. . . does more than tweak the standards. It would eliminate the parking and distance separation standards, increase the allowable size of the units, and allow detached ADUs in the county’s smallest lot zones . . .” Mr. Elrich notes that, “. . . the current standards were adopted because many single-family neighborhoods have narrow streets, shared driveways, congested on-street parking conditions, and overcrowded schools.” Expressing concern for unintended consequences, Mr. Elrich notes “. . . additional density in our suburban areas will lead to more car-dependent housing – more traffic on already overcrowded roads.”

While RCA has not taken a position on the legislation, it is important for residents to understand this proposal. The County Council held a public hearing on the legislation on February 26th. The legislation is still being considered in committee, which may be followed by a vote of the full County Council. More comprehensive details of the proposed legislation can be found at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/Resources/Files/agenda/col/2019/20190115/20190115_4A.pdf. If you wish to express your thoughts on this matter, email sent to this address is distributed to each member of the council: county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov. The RCA board would also be interested in hearing your views to help inform any action the association may take on this legislation. Your reply to this message will be shared with the board.

1 Comments on “Proposed Legislation for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)”

  1. The current requirements are incredibly complicated. I would be in favor of some work to simplify and streamline the approval process.

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