If you’re against allowing small second dwellings in single-family neighborhoods, sign your protest postcard.
Missoula City Councilman Jon Wilkins, who vehemently opposes “accessory dwelling units,” or ADUs, said Monday an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people should have received postcards as of the weekend.
“My phone has been ringing off the wall since Friday afternoon,” Wilkins said. “I only had one person call me (who) said they wanted it.”
ADUs can be tiny backyard cottages or basement apartments. The Missoula City Council has been talking about loosening the regulations to make it easier for people to build these second-unit homes, and the idea is controversial.
Proponents see the small homes as a way to increase the housing stock in Missoula and create an affordable option for some property owners; opponents see them as bringing more parking problems and noise into neighborhoods that already are burdened with such problems.
The Planning Board, which makes recommendations to the council, will hold a meeting on the matter at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St. Find detailed information about the current proposal here online with this story on Missoulian.com.
The mailing instructs people on how to protest changes, and Wilkins asked people to mail their postcards this week. If you didn’t get a card and want one, go to saveourneighborhoodsmsla.com.
The protest effort has raised between $7,000 and $10,000 so far, although Wilkins doesn’t believe people should have to fundraise to protect zoning.
“That’s a shame that we should have to do that, you know,” he said.
If enough property owners protest, the council will need a supermajority instead of a simple majority to adopt changes. But protest thresholds are complicated and have a couple of different trigger points, City Clerk Marty Rehbein said.
There are seven different single family zones, she said. If owners representing 25 percent of the affected district protest in any of those zones, their protest will mean the council needs a two-thirds majority to make changes in that zone, Rehbein said; the same is true if owners representing 25 percent of the property owners within 150 feet of the property protest.
So city mapmakers and planners are putting together a database to determine the level of protest each separate zone would require, Rehbein said. If, say, one person owns most of an affected area in question, that person’s protest might be the only one that’s necessary to trigger a supermajority vote for that specific district.
The postcard names some of the concerns Save Our Neighborhoods has about the proposal, including the following: increased traffic, noise and parking problems; acceleration of rental proliferation; impact on neighbors’ privacy; and degradation of quality of life and a healthy environment.
Proponents, on the other hand, tout the benefits of the second units. Councilman Bob Jaffe said demographics are changing, and letting people who have extra space in their homes rent out part of them will make their homes more affordable.
He doesn’t buy the argument that the small homes will hurt the quality in the neighborhoods because property owners will be required to live in either the main home or the little home. So he said many of the concerns people have with other rentals where owners are absent aren’t in play.
“I don’t really agree with the sky-is-falling presentation that’s in that postcard,” Jaffe said.
The Planning Board likely will issue recommendations within the next couple of weeks, according to Development Services. Jaffe anticipates the Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee will discuss the proposal again a couple weeks after it receives those recommendations.