Academic Detached Dwelling Units

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Auburn City Council will once again consider the creation of a new performing housing type, academic detached dwelling units (ADDU), after tabling the zoning ordinance amendment at its first meeting in March. 

The proposed ordinance would define ADDUs like private dormitories, where the units are typically rented by the bedroom, in five-bed, five-bath configurations, furnished, and possessing a smaller common area and more private space than single-family detached dwelling units.

The issue of ADDUs in the Auburn area gained attention last spring when developers built these student-housing units under the city's single-family detached use in Northwest Auburn along Canton Avenue, which raised concerns about gentrification of the traditionally African-American neighborhood.

Consideration of ADDUs was delayed as the city negotiated with developers, who opposed some of the proposed regulations, including a 1.1 parking space per bedroom requirement that arose out of Planning Commission work sessions and replaced the 1 space per bedroom recommendation made by the Planning Department. 

Whether to require 1 space or 1.1 space per bedroom is one of three sticking points that the council must resolve at its meeting on Tuesday. 

At a work session earlier this week on ADDUs, Planning Director Forrest Cotten indicated that Planning Department is comfortable with only requiring one parking space, while some council members, like Ward 2 Councilman Kelley Griswold, voiced a desire to keep the higher parking requirement.

Another sticking point is whether to allow ADDUs in the Neighborhood Redevelopment District, which includes the area around Canton Avenue between Donahue Drive and North College Street north of Bragg Avenue.

Under the Planning Department's initial proposal for the use, ADDUs would not be permitted in NRD.

Developers and some council members, including Ward 1 Councilwoman Connie Fitch Taylor, previously noted the a number of ADDU developments are either completed or under construction on Canton Avenue, and that the area might be effectively lost already. 

"Now that it's really taken up so much of the area, are there really going to be compatibility issues if new academic detached dwelling units come in. That's a good point," said Cotten, about the developer's position. "We've conceded that it probably makes some sense to go ahead and make that a conditional use in that particular district."

The latest proposal, which the council will consider Tuesday, would make ADDUs a conditional use in areas zoned NRD east of North Donahue Drive. ADDUs would not be permitted in NRD west of North Donahue. 

ADDUs would also be conditional in areas zoned Redevelopment District, and Corridor Redevelopment Districts Urban and Suburban. If the council approves the zoning text and map amendments arising out of the Harper Avenue Focus Area Study on Tuesday, ADDUs would also be conditional in the newly created Medium Density Residential District along Harper Avenue.

ADDUs would be permitted by-right in Urban Neighborhoods East, West and South, which generally surround the Urban Core.

Multiple council members expressed concern about permitting ADDUs at all in NRD, as well as the current RDD zoning of the  Corradino property on Judd Avenue in Northwest Auburn, where a proposed but now-withdrawn cottage-housing project drew backlash from the community, who said it would change the character of the neighborhood because of the influx of college students.

Councilwoman Beth Witten asked why the property couldn't just be rezoned so an ADDU unit could not be built. Cotten said a rezoning targeting that parcel would result in the city being sued and that the city would almost surely lose.

The last sticking point the council will have to weigh is whether to make ADDUs permitted by-right or conditional in RDD. Developers want by-right, while the Planning Department wants the use to be conditional.

"That's a decision point where we're just not going to be able to agree with the development community based on where we currently have RDD," said Cotten, who noted that RDD is slowly being phased out in the city by the creation of more prescriptive districts.

The council will consider these points and ADDUs at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers on Ross Street.

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