By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The Bend City Council on Wednesday discussed making it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, as a means to increase affordable rental housing, though at least one councilor was skeptical of the plan.

ADUs, often referred to as granny flats, can take the form of a backyard cottage or apartment atop a garage. They are currently allowed under Bend’s development code, but generally cannot exceed 600 square feet, and builders must apply for a conditional use permit on lots established before 1998, which costs around $2,600 and requires a community meeting to be held.

To make it easier to build ADUs, and, as the theory goes, increase the supply of rental housing, the city is considering increasing the maximum size to 800 square feet on lots greater than 6,000 square feet and allowing them outright in most residential areas regardless of a lot’s established date, a change which would reduce the $2,600 permit fee and eliminate the required meeting.

The city may also scrap a requirement that one additional parking space be added to accommodate an ADU.

To prevent a project from appearing out of scale with its surroundings, another feature of the proposed code change limits how much of a lot is able to be covered by buildings.

The policies were developed by a community advisory committee that included architects, a planning commissioner, a member of a group helping with the city’s urban growth boundary expansion and a representative from the construction industry. The Planning Commission endorsed the policies, except for the parking exception, which commissioners voted against.

Councilor Doug Knight said he was concerned about increasing the size to 800 square feet. Knight said increasing the size changes an ADU from something “somewhat innocuous” to “a three-bedroom home in the backyard that looms over the back fence.”

Knight also suggested larger ADUs will result in pricier rentals, which defeats the policy’s intent.

Councilor Nathan Boddie supported the policies, downplaying fears that accessory units will change the character of neighborhoods. After noting a planning commissioner floated the possibility of a number of geodesic domes being built in backyards, Boddie said, “people generally don’t want odd things in their backyards.”

Boddie also supported eliminating the parking requirement, something Councilor Victor Chudowsky echoed, saying, “On-street parking doesn’t seem like a problem we have.”

Councilor Barb Campbell added that the neighborhoods where on-street parking is occasionally of concern, such as River West, also tend to have small lots, meaning it’s unlikely a large amount of ADUs will be built.

The council is scheduled to vote on the policies Jan. 20.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com

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