Council Approves Zoning Change for Accessory Dwelling Units

Dear residents,

I am pleased to share that the Council voted unanimously, 9-0, to support the zoning proposal I introduced to allow more homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit is a basement apartment or garage conversion or similar small housing unit that is added to a property.

I introduced this change so that the County could provide an opportunity that many families are seeking, to be able to provide a living arrangement that offers separation but proximity, independence but togetherness. We heard from retirees that they might use an ADU to age in place, and Millennials that they could use an ADU to better afford a mortgage.

We carefully reviewed concerns that were raised about impacts on schools, parking and the environment, and we made changes that achieve a balanced solution that will get a very tailored, practical result.

Details are below. Thank you to each of you who spoke out, whatever your views.

Sincerely,

Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large


Council Approves Zoning Change
for Accessory Dwelling Units

Legislation sponsored by Councilmember Hans Riemer
would remove obstacles to lower-cost housing

ROCKVILLE, Md., July 23, 2019 – The Montgomery County Council unanimously adopted Zoning Text Amendment 19-01 today, removing significant barriers for homeowners who wish to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on their properties. ZTA 19-01 was sponsored by at-large Councilmember Hans Riemer, who chairs the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee.

“The high cost of housing in Montgomery County is pricing people out,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “This important change allows homeowners to build housing that works for their families, and to create better options for renters in communities across Montgomery County. I am grateful for the careful deliberation of my colleagues and their unanimous support, as well as the strong advocacy of the smart growth community – working together we got it done.”

An ADU is a second, separate living unit on a lot zoned for single unit development. ADUs can be built by converting a basement into an apartment, adding an addition to an existing house, building an apartment over a garage, converting an existing shed or detached garage, or building a new backyard cottage. An ADU is distinguished from renting out part of a house because it is a totally separate living unit, with a separate entrance, bathroom and kitchen.

“I am proud to be a part of this Council team that worked hard to provide a creative solution with accessory dwelling units that fits the needs of Montgomery County,” said Council President Nancy Navarro. “We are in the midst of a region-wide housing challenge, and we need creative and effective strategies like this to address the availability of housing for our residents. I would also like to thank the community for their robust input and feedback. As a legislative body, we are committed to bolstering our code enforcement resources and taking appropriate measures to ensure that those who work here can live here and those who wish to retire here are able to do so in a safe and comfortable setting.”

ADUs are a popular solution for families that have relatives who want to live independently, but close by – such as an older grandparent or an adult child with disabilities. Also, the income provided by renting an ADU can make the difference in allowing seniors to age in place as the cost of living grows or allowing new families to be able to afford to buy a home in increasingly expensive areas. Finally, ADUs provide a more affordable option for people seeking to rent in many areas by increasing the supply of housing and reducing pressure on rents across the County.

“Affordable housing continues to be a complex issue in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Will Jawando. “It affects seniors who would like to downsize and remain in their community or near their family; young adults who were born and raised in the county but cannot afford to live here on their own; and families with adult disabled children who are able to live with limited independence. ZTA 19-01 has gone through many work sessions in the Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee and reflects changes based on input from County residents. ADUs do not represent an ultimate solution but instead provide one more alternative in the challenge to make housing affordable for all Montgomery County residents.”

“I appreciate the extensive and substantive community input we received throughout this legislative process and our efforts on the Council to thoughtfully address the issues and concerns of our residents,” said Councilmember Andrew Friedson. “Thanks to that feedback and careful deliberation, we reached a far better outcome on this zoning text change, especially with amendments limiting the size, maintaining existing parking requirements except in transit-accessible areas and introducing companion legislation to help monitor the impact of ADUs going forward.”

“I look forward to the positive benefits that will stem from the passage of ZTA 19-01, such as allowing more families to support their elderly relatives and family members in need, close to home,” said Councilmember Craig Rice.

ZTA 19-01 makes the following changes to the County’s zoning law covering ADUs:

  • Removes the prohibition on detached ADUs in lots smaller than one acre. The size of the detached ADUs must be the smaller of 10 percent of the lot size, 50 percent of the footprint of the principal dwelling; or 1200 sq. ft. Existing rules limiting the construction of accessory structures apply, including height limits, maximum lot coverage requirements, and stormwater requirements. In addition, the greater side and rear setbacks currently required for detached ADUs remain.
  • Removes the requirement for an additional parking space within one mile of Metro, Purple Line or MARC stations. Proposed ADUs require one off-street parking space in addition to the parking required for each detached house (typically two spaces). For areas outside of one mile, three off-street spaces are still required.
  • Allows for the conversion of existing, legally built structures into ADUs.
  • Clarifies that other rental uses (such as Airbnb) on a property that includes an ADU are prohibited.
  • Removes the prohibition on ADUs in new construction.
  • Removes the distance requirement restricting ADUs from being built within 300 to 500 feet of an existing ADU.

ADUs are a part of the Council’s continuing efforts to ensure that affordable, quality housing is available to residents at all income levels. While these units alone will certainly not solve the housing crisis, they do fill an important gap and can be paired with existing rental subsidy and other potential subsidy programs to reach an even deeper level of affordability.

ZTA 19-01 was first introduced on Jan. 15, 2019 and a public hearing was held on Feb. 26. The Council’s PHED Committee held three meetings before unanimously recommending adoption with amendments. The full Council reviewed ZTA 19-01 on June 18 and July 9 to make further amendments before approving the legislation today.

The changes will take effect on Dec. 31, 2019 together with Bill 22-19, which is a companion bill to amend the licensing code which was introduced on July 16, 2019. Bill 22-19 renames “Accessory Apartments” to “Accessory Dwelling Units” in the County Code, modernizes the standards for measuring basement ceiling heights, requires ADU applicants to certify that they meet any applicable HOA standards and notice requirements to affected HOAs, requires quarterly reporting on ADU issues by the County Executive, and requires that the property owner live on-site in either the principal dwelling or the ADU. A public hearing on Bill 22-19 is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Councilmember Hans Riemer introduces zoning amendment to remove restrictions on accessory dwelling units

ROCKVILLE, Md., Jan. 15, 2019—Today Councilmember Hans Riemer introduced Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 19-01 – Accessory Residential Units – Accessory Apartments, a proposal designed to remove barriers that prevent homeowners from building accessory apartments. ZTA 19-01 would, among other things, remove the prohibition on detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in small lot, single family zones and remove the prohibition on ADUs in basements. Certain other restrictions, such as the requirement that the property be owner-occupied, would remain in the law.

ADUs are separate dwelling units on the same property as a single-family residence. Often they are constructed as part of a single house (an “attached” ADU) but they can also be a separate tiny house or cottage, or an apartment above a garage. ADUs have a separate entrance, full kitchen and bathroom. These units, sometimes called in-law suites or granny flats, are great housing options for parents or grandparents, adult children and relatives, individuals with special needs and caregivers, and of course, people generally. ADUs are an inherently affordable form of housing that may allow some people to live in expensive neighborhoods that would otherwise be out of reach.

“ADUs are a wonderful solution for housing different generations of a family and they provide more affordable housing in parts of the County where housing has become prohibitively expensive,” said Councilmember Riemer, who is the chair of the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee. “Unfortunately, the County’s rules treat this housing type as a nuisance to be avoided rather than a resource to be welcomed. This zoning change aims to change that framework.”

Councilmember Riemer will host a policy forum on ADUs this Saturday, Jan. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. The forum is free and open to the public, RSVP here.

The Council staff report on ZTA 19-01 can be viewed here. A fact sheet compiled by Councilmember Riemer about this legislation and ADUs in general can be viewed here. A public hearing for ZTA 19-01 is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Last year, Councilmember Riemer was a lead sponsor of ZTA 18-07, Accessory Residential Units – Accessory Apartments, along with former Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Roger Berliner, which streamlined the process for creating ADUs by removing the requirement for conditional use approval for all accessory apartments and revising the limited use provisions for attached and detached accessory apartments.

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Council Update — winter storm resources and accessory dwelling units

Dear Resident,

As we are all working to bounce back from the snowstorm’s impact, check our Winter Storm Information Portal or reach out to my office if we can provide assistance, and check out the list of the Best Hills for Sledding in Montgomery County Parks!

On Tuesday, the Council will begin 2019 with a busy session. View the full agenda.

I will be introducing a zoning amendment that makes several needed changes to the County’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) rules.

ADUs are seperate dwelling units — think “in-law suite,” “tiny house,” etc — on the same lot as a house. Usually they are inside a house, but they can also be a smaller separate house. They have a separate entrance, full kitchen, and bathroom. Many people find that ADUs are a great housing solution for the parents or grandparents of a family, adult children and relatives, adult children with special needs, caregivers, and just generally. They provide more affordable housing in parts of the County where housing has become prohibitively expensive.

Unfortunately, the County’s rules treat this housing type as a nuisance to be avoided rather than a resource to be welcomed. This zoning change aims to change that framework. For details, please take a look at the fact sheet and the text of the zoning change.

To gather input from residents and experts, I will host a policy forum on ADUs on Saturday, January 19 from 10am-Noon in Rockville. If you are interested in learning more about ADUs and the changes I am proposing, please RSVP.

The Council public hearing on the ordinance will be take place in late February.

Following are some additional highlights of the Council’s week:

Public hearings on zoning changes related to Montgomery Mall, the Purple Line, and Farm Alcohol Production
The Council will hold public hearings on three zoning changes that I authored. The first relates to the redevelopment of Montgomery Mall. The second allows higher fence heights for residents adjacent to the Purple Line. The third allows farm breweries and wineries to locate in certain large lot residential zones.

Discussion on financial controls to prevent fraud and theft
In the wake of the recent conviction of a Montgomery County employee for theft of public money, the County Inspector General and executive branch staff will brief the Council on a report that outlines how the theft happened and that recommends countermeasures to prevent this from happening again. The County has already implemented or begun implementing these countermeasures.

Independent Investigation of officer involved death legislation
I have co-sponsored legislation set to be introduced on Tuesday by Councilmember Jawando that would require an independent investigation of every police officer involved death. The goal of the bill is to promote public confidence in these investigations. A public hearing will occur in early March.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know if you need assistance with County services.

Stay safe out there!

Hans Riemer Signature
Hans Riemer
Councilmember, At-large

Jan 19: policy event about accessory dwelling units

On January 19th, at 10am, please join us for a community policy forum on Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. This event will take place in Rockville at the Council hearing room. If you are interested in ADUs and how you can support reforms that are needed to create more ADUs, please attend. You may RSVP here.

Thank you,

Hans Riemer Signature

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?
Picture an apartment over a garage, or a basement apartment (“English basement), or a “tiny house” on a side lot. An Accessory Dwelling Unit has a full kitchen and a bathroom and a separate entrance. It is a second unit in a house or on a lot.

Why Are ADU’s beneficial?
ADU’s are an important housing solution because they provide

  • Housing for children or grandchildren to live separately but close by.
  • Housing for parents or grandparents to live separately but close by.
  • Additional income for retirees or young families to make housing more affordable.
  • More affordable housing in areas of the County that have become prohibitively expensive.

Why do we need to change the rules for ADU’s?
Montgomery County’s current zoning code views ADU’s more as a nuisance to be prevented than a beneficial solution to be encouraged. ADU’s are not allowed unless an expensive driveway is built, or if there is another ADU down the block, or if the house is newly constructed. We need to look at ADU’s as desirable housing and align our policies to support them.