Ordinance allowing more rentals goes to the assembly

The borough assembly will be the next for a proposed ordinance intended to make it easier for some homeowners to add a small rental unit to their property.

The planning and zoning commission voted Thursday, Oct. 12, to recommend assembly approval of the ordinance, which has been months in the making as borough staff and the commission considered what limits to put on building small, detached rental units on single-family lots.

Such rentals — called accessory dwelling units — currently are not allowed under municipal code.

The commission amended the draft ordinance on Oct. 12 to make clear the maximum size for such rental units does not include any exterior attachments, like a deck, patio or stairs.

The original draft counted exterior space against the limit.

“I think that takes away from the actual living unit and what we’re trying to do,” said Jillian Privett, who was supported by all of her commission colleagues in voting for the amendment.

The commission also amended the ordinance to remove a 10,000-square-foot minimum lot size restriction for adding a rental unit to a single-family lot. Instead, the minimum lot size would be determined by existing borough code, which varies by zoning classification and which can be as small as 5,000 square feet.

The commission amendment also provides flexibility for the size of the rental unit on larger lots.

As proposed for the assembly’s consideration, the ordinance now says a rental may not exceed the lesser of 800 square feet, or 40% of the size of the primary home on the parcel for lots of half an acre or less, or 60% of the size of the primary home on lots between half an acre and a full acre, or 80% on lots of more than one acre.

“Accessory dwelling units give homeowners flexibility in establishing separate living quarters adjacent to their homes,” according to the proposed ordinance, “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.”

Allowing construction and establishing standards for such rentals, detached from the primary home on the lot, could help ease the community’s rental shortage, according to a borough staff report for the planning and zoning commission.

Restrictions would include: The rental units would need to be separate from the home; the accessory units could not be built on a lot with a duplex or multi-family housing; the rental could not be built closer to the property’s front line than the primary residence; and mobile homes, travel trailers and recreational vehicles could not be used as accessory dwelling units.

 

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