On April 27, the Norwood Young America City Council met once again to discuss several items. The first of these is an ordinance amendment regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), which would allow single-family home owners to create apartments on their property, so long as the space is actually livable. Another amendment that saw a lot of discussion was the rezoning of Railroad Street.

Cynthia Smith Strack, the planning consultant for this ordinance, presented the information to the council regarding the benefits of ADU plans for the community.

“It will actually allow for more than one dwelling unit on an individual lot on record,” she said. “It would have the potential to have substantial impact on development density.”

A few residents may recognize the ADU ordinance, as it’s seen its fair share of discussion in planning commission meetings, even receiving a public hearing in early March. An ADU can be many things, from a converted basement to a detached garage. The rules are fairly simple, though important to anyone looking to manage an ADU.

The first is the space for an ADU must be an existing structure. It could be a separate floor in a house, a shed on the property, nearly anything so long as it’s existing. That existing unit must also have a full bathroom, full kitchen, and a sleeping area to qualify as a dwelling. The ADU can be attached or detached from the single-family home. So long as it’s on the property and meets the standards, it qualifies. Design will matter for these units, according to Smith Strack, with the design being “sympathetic” to the property that the ADU shares the lot with.

Those requirements don’t mean a second house, though. By definition, ADUs are small, and typically only house one or two people, with detached units even having height limits. This is why they’re often used for college-aged children or retired parents, which allows them to live in cheaper housing while giving the homeowner some income for a less used space.

It’s important that these are only for single-family homes. That means any duplexes, townhomes, or properties designed for more than one family dwelling are not eligible to create ADUs. ADUs cannot be split from the property later, either. Rental agreements will proposed through the city so they can ensure that the ADU is up to standard.

With this all in mind, the planning commission recommended approval for the ordinance to the NYA City Council. After hearing the information, the council made a motion to approve the ordinance. The motion was approved unanimously by the council.

The next big discussion item on the agenda was the rezoning of Railroad Street. This item has been discussed since March of 2019, and it’s been several months since the item was discussed again. With the new Comprehensive Plan coming into effect, the planning commission wanted to resume discussions around the rezoning effort to diffuse all confusion.

The idea is to rezone Railroad to C-3, which has the complication of not allowing auto repair in that zone, turning them into nonconforming uses. This would cause five properties to be nonconforming, which could put them in an awkward spot. The council looked at other solutions, such as rezoning Reform to accommodate the auto repair shops to keep their place without them being nonconforming.

“So it would seem like that it would be everything that’s currently north of Railroad, east of Progress, west of Reform, those would all become RC-1,” said Mayor Carol Lagergren during their discussion.

This rezone would more expand an existing RC-1 zone coming from the north, so this section wasn’t the complicated one. South of Railroad is where there are a lot of other businesses that could be affected by the rezone. The biggest difference in the rezone RC-1 and C-3 is outdoor storage, with RC-1 allowing it.

Council member Dick Stolz pointed out that outdoor storage downtown could be “detrimental” to the city.

“It brings in no jobs, no taxes, and brings a lot of work on us,” said Stolz.

With the zoning change, CUPs would be needed for storage or auto repair, and anything already there can stay so long as it’s active and doesn’t expand, so the biggest difference is the ability for conditional use.

Stolz brought up that the council should zone based on “what benefits the community, not what’s already there.” Craig Heher echoed this idea, as well as Mike McPadden, meaning they would recommend keeping the zone the same as C-3. The council then proposed an idea to create a specific file on this discussion to help future talks move forward.

Once the discussion the complete, it was returned to the planning commission for further discussion towards a recommended motion.

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