Bainbridge Island City Council pushes ADU ordinance discussion to Aug. 11

The Bainbridge Island City Council will continue discussion surrounding an ordinance that would modify standards and regulations for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) at its Aug. 11 meeting after several council members were found to not be in support of the ordinance as it was originally written.

Accessory dwelling units, sometimes called “mother-in-law” units, are typically smaller dwellings on the properties of single-family residences.

The ordinance put forth to the council last week adds a “common ownership” requirement — meaning that the ADU and the larger home must be owned by the same person (or persons) or legal entity. The ordinance also added “shops” and “barns” as examples of detached buildings that can have an ADU constructed above it, and prohibits ADUs from being used as short-term rentals after the date the ordinance takes effect.

A representative from the Planning Commission will be in attendance Aug. 11 to provide insight into the commission’s reasoning for the proposed changes. Discussion will center around the common ownership requirement; the removal of lot coverage standards for constructing ADUs on properties that are less than 40,000 square feet in residential zones — the commission is recommending keeping the lot coverage standard; and whether or not to allow ADUs to be used as short-term rentals. Bainbridge currently does not limit short-term rentals as a use, but does require operators to have a business license.

Councilmember Cathy Carr did not support the common ownership requirement since it would not help affordable housing issues on the island.

“ADUs sold separately can provide a price point not otherwise available in home ownership,” Carr said.

Deputy Mayor Joe Deets agreed that the ordinance, as written, didn’t seem to be of any help to the challenges of getting more affordable housing on the island, adding that “it seems like there’s enough questions that put that in doubt.”

Councilmember Kol Medina said he wasn’t in favor of ADUs in an ideal world, but realizes that island residents who want to age in place need to have the ability to rent out an ADU or move into one and rent the larger home. With that in mind, Medina said he did not want to see ADUs built in “far-flung” parts of Bainbridge.

“We need to stop that,” Medina said. “We need to do everything we can to stop car-based density on the island.”

The discussion was moved to unfinished business and put on the agenda for Aug. 11, as the council’s next meeting on July 28 seemed to already be full of time-consuming topics.