Code change targets housing crisis

Provisions made against use as short-term rentals

PORT ANGLES — Clallam County’s commissioners have unanimously approved changes to the accessory dwelling units ordinance that are aimed to help address the housing crisis.

County commissioners had been set to vote on this ordinance earlier this month but decided to hold off until this past Tuesday to allow more time for public comment.

Most of the comments received by Tuesday were in favor of the new ordinance, with some concerns raised about water and septic systems as well as the rural character of the county being impacted by the new ordinance.

The ADU ordinance allows an exemption from the 50 percent gross floor area requirement for detached ADUs smaller than 400 square feet and for ADUs to be developed on legal parcels 1.5 acres or greater as long as the ADU is within 300 feet of the primary residence.

The ordinance also strengthens an existing waiver in the code regarding water and sewer requirements.

It sets development requirements that prevent ADUs from being developed as short-term rentals.

Holden Fleming with the county planning commission clarified some questions that had arisen in public comments.

“There’s just a couple of things that I would like to address,” he said. “The first is the exemption/waiver associated with water and septic with the language that we are currently proposing.

“If a parcel has access to a community water system (water system registered with the county) and they can meet their septic requirements, that completely eliminates the 1.5-acre requirement outside of the Urban Growth Area.”

Basically, property owners with parcels of any size acreage outside the UGA could develop a detached ADU if they so chose, provided water and septic needs are met, he said.

County Commissioner Randy Johnson asked for clarification. Fleming explained that, for a property owner to develop an ADU, either the property owner’s septic system has to have the capacity to accept that additional bathroom or the property owner must install an expanded septic system or a new one.

Fleming also noted that the code specifies ADUs must share water with their primary residences, but they do not have to share septic systems as long as the septic system is part of the development review process.

“The other thing I would like to address is a question of preference,” Fleming said.

“Throughout the county already, property owners are allowed to develop attached ADUs. This is just extending the ability for property owners to develop detached ADUs,” he added.

“We’ve seen that detached is the preferred ADU type, so this is just moving in that direction.”

County Commissioner Bill Peach asked for clarification on language in the ordinance that prevents the development of ADUs for vacation rental.

If ADUs were used for vacation rentals, that would counter the efforts to address the housing crisis.

The language in the ordinance reads: “The owner of the parcel shall live either in the primary dwelling or ADU as their primary residence. For the purpose of this standard, ‘primary permanent residence’ shall mean occupancy by the underlying property owner for no less than 120 days during a calendar year.

“ADUs may be used for occupation by family members, guests, renters, lessees, and estate caretakers/groundskeepers,” the ordinance says.

“Either the primary dwelling or the ADU may be used as a vacation rental, but not both.”

The code language is that, to qualify for the development of an ADU, a property owner must occupy the primary dwelling or the ADU for a minimum of 120 days in a given year, Fleming said.

“This essentially points to that, if you want to have an ADU, you have to live on the property you own,” Fleming said.

Fleming noted an “explosion” in vacation rentals in the county over the past few years and said this ordinance aims to make sure that people cannot rent out their primary homes and ADUs at the same time for short-term rental.

“We see that ADUs are a valuable tool when it comes to providing affordable rentals in the county, and we want to kind of minimize the conflict we have between short-term rentals and long-term rentals,” Fleming said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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