Accessory Residential Units Need More Vetting, Neighbors Say

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A petition is circulating around the town saying the Town didn’t give good enough notice to residents that a plan was being considered to allow more density in existing neighborhoods.

As a way to try to increase the supply of rental housing inventory, the town is considering adding the ability of homeowners to construct accessory residential units (ARUs), up to 800 square feet, in single-family neighborhoods across the town.

In March 2016, the Town Council directed planners to explore allowing ARUs in zones where they are currently prohibited. The effort was considered a ‘low-hanging fruit opportunity’ for providing additional workforce housing in the community. It was also described as the first step towards implementing the strategies outlined in the Housing Action Plan, which specifically identified ARUs as being a low-cost and yet promising workforce housing supply.

Because the proposal would apply town-wide, the town staff did not send property owners notice of four community workshops, the Planning Commission meetings, or the Town Council meetings where the final decision will be made in August on the idea of allowing the extra units. The workshops were held at the Jackson Senior Center, at Town Hall, at Jackson Elementary School, and at Teton County Library. Only 59 people attended the workshops.

The petition states that residents did not know about the proposed amendments to the Land Development Regulations to allow Accessory Residential Units (ARUs) in Single-Family Neighborhood-Conservation zones.

 

Lorie Cahn, who lives on Wapiti Drive in East Jackson, is circulating the petition in her area and she said, “It turns out that most of our neighbors didn’t realize that the town is proposing ARUs for our neighborhood. Most people know that the Comp Plan and LDRs didn’t allow these in our neighborhood and so therefore the proposed amendments didn’t apply to us.”

 

Last month, the Planning Commission voted to move the proposal forward to the Town Council.

 

Cahn, and others who have signed the document, say that more community involvement is needed. “We think a change of this magnitude is significant enough that a letter should be sent to each affected homeowner,” she said, noting the town has not done an effective job of involving them in the discussion.

 

“Many of us don’t believe that the proposed ARUs are appropriate for our neighborhood” Cahn said. ARUs are already allowed in 12 of 18 zones but very few have been built. Rather than expand ARUs into single-family neighborhoods, where it was previously determined to be inappropriate, Cahn suggests that the Town consider why they aren’t being built in more appropriate neighborhoods, and make changes there.

 

The discussion is scheduled for the Town Council meeting at 6 p.m. August 1 and if approved, will likely be again at the August 15 and 29 Town Council meetings.

 

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