County provides more time for ADU code change study

Comment due by March 21

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners on Tuesday decided to allow more time for public outreach and comment on proposed code changes for accessory dwelling units.

Following a planning commission presentation and a public hearing, commissioners elected on Tuesday to put off a decision on the update of code for accessory dwelling units (ADU) until March 29 to give more time for public comment and for the commissioners to have additional questions answered.

Public comment can be sent to the Clerk of the Board at 360-417-2256 or [email protected] It is due by March 21.

”I don’t know that we have really reached out to the community on this and get all the input.” Commissioner Randy Johnson said.

“I’m surprised we didn’t have a multitude of comments coming in … and I certainly would like to make sure we reach out to the community one more time before we have a final vote.”

Commissioner Mark Ozias also was surprised by the dearth of comment.

“I anticipated at least a dozen or more and I’m not sure what that means. We can interpret that in a number of ways but the safest thing to do is try to provide one more opportunity,” Ozias said.

Commissioner Bill Peach was the only commissioner ready to vote on the proposed change.

“I agree with the need for community support. But at this time I am very much in support of what has been proposed,” Peach said.

The current ADU code was developed in 1995 and last updated in 2002.

These proposed changes to the code would bring it up to date with the current housing needs and clarify some design requirements for ADUs, according to county staff.

Some of these proposed changes would allow for an exemption from the 50 percent gross floor area requirement for detached ADUs smaller than 400 square feet and allow ADUs to be developed on legal parcels 1.5 acres or greater.

The change would clarify residency requirements of ADUs as they relate to vacation rentals.

It would require ADUs to be within 300 feet of the primary residence.

It also would eliminate provisions for new Temporary Medical Hardship Dwellings, and strengthen an existing waiver in the code regarding water and sewer requirements.

In a presentation to the county commissioners, Holden Fleming and a professional planner with the county planning commission outlined the rationale for these proposed changes.

In recent years, in an effort to address the affordable housing crisis, Clallam County has allowed for the development of ADUs that meet the standards of a Basic Living Unit (BLU), which minimizes the impacts that larger developments have, the presenters said.

Fleming said that the 400-square-foot exemption would allow for ADUs to be built on parcels that were originally developed with a small primary dwelling.

“The idea is that if somebody is so inclined to develop on small footprint on a parcel that meets all of the other land requirements, they should not be in some way punished or deprived of their right to develop a very small detached ADU,” Fleming said.

The 2002 version of the ADU ordinance says that ADUs must be placed on parcels that meet the minimum lot size requirements in which they are zoned.

However many of these lots were created well before current zoning requirements were put in place, presenters said. By changing the language of the ordinance, property owners of the lots would be allowed to build detached ADUs.

“It seems that county residents prefer these detached ADUs, so the way we see it, if is on, say, an 8-acre parcel or a 5-acre parcel — if it’s a legally created parcel — these people should have the same access to the detached ADUs,” Fleming said.

One of the original goals of the ADU ordinance was to put rural character conservation zones with other rural zones. A waiver that is part of the existing ordinance would allow for the development of detached ADUs on parcels smaller than 1.5 acres and are served by community water and sewer systems. By adjusting the waiver requirements to rely on a parcel’s ability to support septic system services while preventing changes to the neighborhood’s rural character.

“Essentially what we are saying is there is a chance that by reducing that 1.5-acre minimum lot size outside of the Urban Growth Area, there could be a cumulative impact on the rural character of our county,” Fleming said..

“However, we understand that there is already a large number of parcels in the county that are served by community water systems in these rural areas, that under the existing waiver would have also had to have been served by a community sewer system.

“That is exceedingly rare and doesn’t really exist in the county … so instead we can kind of find a middle ground compromise, which just says in these areas already served by community water and can support a septic system,there’s no reason to not allow them to have a detached ADU,” Fleming said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]

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