On a 7-5 vote, the Missoula City Council on Monday approved an ordinance allowing “accessory dwelling units” in all residential neighborhoods within guidelines.
ADUs can be basement apartments or backyard cottages, and the secondary units have been contentious in Missoula for years. On Monday, opponents and supporters again voiced their positions on the infill option.
“ADUs are not the end of the world. They are not the end of Missoula as we know it,” said Sally Brown, who lives in the University District. “They are another affordable housing option, and as an older individual, I’m looking for those.“
Myra Shults disagreed, and she asked the council to protect her residential investment. She said she believes her property will lose value if ADUs are allowed on her block, but it will be years before a tax assessor registers the loss.
“You're destroying what we worked our whole life for,” Shults said.
Opponents voiced their disapproval of the ordinance in many public forums, but their effort to collect enough protests to force a supermajority vote was unsuccessful, according to data from the city clerk. Valid protests came to 6.4 percent in all residential areas or 10 percent in single dwelling districts when counted by area.
The numbers fell far short of the 25 percent threshold necessary – and much shorter of opponents’ estimate that they had a “vast majority,” even with their energetic campaign and most generous counting method, said Mayor John Engen.
“A majority is 51 percent. This doesn’t come close to a majority, ladies and gentlemen,” Engen said “It’s not a criticism of anyone, it is a fact.“
Engen also said he would not veto the ordinance. The regulations include many safeguards and strict hurdles for approval for the most controversial ADUs, the backyard cottages and interior apartments that add square footage to a home.
Councilors Jason Wiener, Cynthia Wolken, Bob Jaffe, Alex Taft, Mike O’Herron, Marilyn Marler and Ed Childers voted yes. Opposing the revision were Councilors Dave Strohmaier, Adam Hertz, Caitlin Copple, Jon Wilkins and Dick Haines.
As approved, the ordinance allows property owners who live in any residential neighborhood to add an interior or detached unit within guidelines. The regulation requires the owner to live on site, for instance, and it notes specific lot and design requirements.
In their discussion, councilors voted against Hertz’s motion to put the measure on the ballot instead. They also argued about whether the ordinance reflected compromise.
Wilkins, who has been a vocal opponent of infill, said none of the concessions made by the majority came from opponents. The maximum area, for instance, was reduced from 800 to 600 square feet for a detached unit.
“That was your idea ... It didn’t come from us,” Wilkins said. “So compromising? What the heck does that word mean in Missoula?“
Childers, who supported the ordinance, said if compromise means “put it somewhere else,” the council already did that a few years ago when it updated all its development regulations. This time around?
“If compromise means the difference between 800 and zero is zero, that’s not compromise,” Childers said.
Some of the general requirements in the ordinance are as follows, and some fees have yet to be determined, according to Development Services:
• Property owners who already have an ADU and want to operate above board may apply for a permit in the grace period.
• New interior units that don’t add square footage to the main home don’t require approval by the council, but do require building code and zoning review along with related fees.
• New interior units that add square footage to the home and new detached units require “conditional use” approval by the council after notice to neighbors and a public hearing. A conditional use permit runs $1,664 plus mailing costs for notifications.
In other business, the council unanimously approved spending $200,000 of the city’s portion of the 2006 Open Space bond toward purchasing and preserving the Garden City Harvest River Road Neighborhood Farm and Community Garden. The total cost is $440,000.