Borough moves closer to allowing more apartments in town

In an effort to make more housing available in the community, the planning and zoning commission has accepted a draft set of rules to allow the addition of a detached rental unit on the same lot as a single-family home.

Such rentals currently are not allowed under municipal code.

The vote on Thursday, Sept. 14, will set the proposal for a public hearing and further consideration by the commission, which could then forward the recommended ordinance to the borough assembly for another public hearing and approval.

“As the housing market continues to see a rise in land, development and home costs, the availability of affordable housing is decreasing in Wrangell,” stated a staff report prepared for last week’s commission meeting.

Allowing construction and establishing standards for accessory dwelling units, detached from the primary home on the lot, could help ease the rental shortage, the report stated.

The commission has been working with the borough attorney to draft the new rules.

“The purpose and intent of this chapter is to allow accessory dwelling units … while preserving the appearance and character of existing neighborhoods,” the draft code states.

“Accessory dwelling units give homeowners flexibility in establishing separate living quarters adjacent to their homes so that they might provide housing opportunities for elderly or other family members, obtain rental income, provide affordable housing opportunities within the community, or utilize their property more efficiently.”

The rules would apply to most residential areas in Wrangell, Kate Thomas, the borough’s economic development director, explained the day after last week’s commission meeting.

The minimum lot size for a single-family home with an accessory unit would be 10,000 square feet.

The maximum floor space for an accessory unit would be 800 square feet, with a limit of one per lot.

The rental units would have to be separate from the home. For example, a rental would be allowed under the new code above a detached garage, but not in a garage attached to the home. Such attached rentals would need a conditional-use permit, which would require a public hearing and approval by the planning and zoning commission.

A conditional-use permit also would be required if the owner wants to rent out an accessory dwelling unit as a vacation residence or bed and breakfast.

Each accessory dwelling unit would need to be a complete rental, with cooking and bathroom facilities.

Other rules in the draft ordinance include:

- A unit may not be located on a lot with a duplex or multi-family housing.

- It may not be built closer to the property’s front line than the primary residence and must be built in a side or rear yard, except in the case of a new or converted detached garage.

- A unit may not be taller than the primary residence.

- The rental should share the primary residence’s sewer and septic system “where practical,” and shall be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to handle two housing units.

- Mobile homes, travel trailers and recreational vehicles may not be used as an accessory dwelling unit.


Reader Comments(0)