The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Council members Lisa Rodvien, of Annapolis, Allison Pickard, of Glen Burnie, and Julie Hummer, of Laurel, would make it easier for homeowners to create spaces, commonly referred to as secondary suites, accessory apartments and “granny” flats, on the property of a single-family home where another person could live independently. The bill proposes changes including allowing detached dwellings on the property, altering square-footage requirements of the ADU and repealing limits on the size of properties on which an ADU can be built.
Rodvien, Hummer and Council Chair Pete Smith, a Democrat from Severn, defeated an amendment to the bill proposed by Pasadena Republican Nathan Volke that would require each accessory dwelling unit have a corresponding parking space on the lot. While Volke’s Republican colleagues, Shannon Leadbetter from Crofton and Amanda Fiedler from Arnold, voted in favor of the amendment, it failed to pass in a three-to-three vote. Pickard was absent from the meeting.
“We’re going to have a lot of parking problems. That’s the concern that I have with this,” Volke said. “I hear a lot about parking complaints under the existing code, let alone what would loosen for ADUs.”
Leadbetter, who added herself as an amendment co-sponsor, agreed that allowing for more density without new parking requirements could cause parking problems and invite safety issues. She noted the density of cars could potentially lead to obstacles for emergency vehicles getting to residents in need.
“In our district, we have numerous areas where street parking is already a problem that I hear,” Leadbetter said. “It’s a top concern for a lot of folks.”
The bill would eliminate limits on the size of properties — currently 14,000 square feet or more — that could house an ADU. It would implement a limit on the size of detached ADUs to the lesser of 800 square feet or 50% of the single-family home’s floor area.
It’s important to remember that many of the folks who would most likely rent out these lower-cost units — young professionals who depend on public transit, live-in caretakers and elderly people who wish to remain living with their families — can’t afford cars, Rodvien noted.
“The whole goal here is affordable housing and if we put obstacles in the path of affordable housing, we’re not going to get the affordable housing that we need,” Rodvien said. “I also am really, really struggling with the idea of prioritizing space for cars over space for people.”
She added that developing an accessory dwelling unit is a big undertaking and it’s unlikely there will be one on every block. It would be an achievement to have one per neighborhood, Rodvien said. Annapolis, a city of around 40,000 people, passed a law that legalized renting out accessory dwelling units in October 2021. The city ordinance did not include a parking requirement.
No rentable accessory dwelling units are currently approved in Annapolis, said city spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson, though two homeowners have submitted applications. According to Annapolis Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier, a Ward 5 Democrat who co-sponsored the city bill, part of the reason for the low number is the cost of building them, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The council passed a second amendment to eliminate a requirement that the main single-family home or the accessory dwelling unit would need to be occupied by the owner. The amendment would also require the full property to be rented as a whole for short-term rentals.
Rodvien and Smith co-sponsored the amendment to remove another potential impediment to residents wishing to rent out these units or their primary homes on the lot.
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If the bill passes, Schandelmeier said the owner occupancy amendment will make it an improvement on the city’s accessory dwelling unit law. He hopes this will encourage the city to make improvements to its version of the law.
Ahead of the council’s final vote on the bill, which will take place at its next meeting March 6 at the earliest barring any more amendments, 19 people wrote online testimonials in defense of the bill. Additionally, a variety of speakers representing groups including the League of Women Voters, Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, AARP and the Institute for Justice spoke to the benefits of accessory dwelling units.
“I bought a house with an ADU attached unit in the city of Annapolis and it really enabled me, a modestly paid state employee, to live in the nice house,” said Trudy McFall, chair of the Anne Arundel County Affordable Housing Coalition. “I have rented that unit to teachers, people of relatively modest incomes who could never have rented a house where I live.”
Annapolis resident Greg Cantori thanked the county for creating more actionable legislation than the state. A bill going through the legislature would create an Accessory Dwelling Unit Promotion and Policy Task Force to study and review the concept. It’s been co-sponsored by Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County Del. Mary Lehman.
“What we found across the country is that when ADU ordinances are permitted, we don’t see a great uptick in the number of units,” Cantori said. “I want you to go from just permitting them to promoting them. Promoting them means that you actually are going to be asking the homeowners to take an active role in our housing issue and it means things like low-interest loans, grants for people with lower incomes — lower-income homeowners as well as lower-income renters.”
The bill will have another public hearing March 6 at the 7 p.m. council meeting.