Parcels abutting the North College District, some of which are found near Drake Avenue, could be affected if the City Council ultimately passes the proposed amendment to the academic detached dwelling use

Less than three months since approving academic detached dwelling units as a new performance housing use in the city's zoning ordinance, the Auburn City Council is poised to amend its work after requesting that the Planning Commission review a draft amendment that would prohibit ADDUs in any parcel in or abutting the North College Historic District.

The request and proposed amendment was spurred by Ward 2 Councilman Kelley Griswold, who lives in the North College Historic District  and tried to get the ordinance amended to include that provision when the council passed the new use in April.

Griswold's move to add the prohibition of ADDUs on parcels within and abutting the North College Historic District drew loud shouts of objection from developers in attendance at April's meeting, who noted the proposal had not been vetted by the Planning Department or the public and that its impact had not been weighed. Griswold ultimately withdrew the motion. 

At meetings over the past two months, Griswold has repeatedly requested that the draft amendment be considered by the Planning Commission. During its Committee of the Whole meeting last week, the City Council unanimously supported having the Planning Department draft the amendment for consideration of the Planning Commission, which it will do at its regular meeting on July 11. The earliest the council could act on the amendment is at its second meeting in August because of legal advertising requirements. 

"The council wants the opportunity to deliberate and then act on it," said Planning Director Forrest Cotten to the Planning Commission at its packet meeting on Monday. "In order to do that, it has to emanate from the Planning Commission, regardless of what you might recommend. My intention, given the situation, which is less than ideal, is to draft the amendment as it's requested, schedule it for your formal consideration at your July meeting and then you would act on it just as you would act on any other similar item of business."

The commission could recommend approval, with or without conditions, or denial of the amendment.

The current ordinance defines ADDUs like the city's private dormitory use, where "the typical unit configuration includes common space for living and cooking and private bedrooms, each with a dedicated bathroom" but no master bedroom/bath and with bedrooms and common spaces that are typically smaller in floor area than those found in single-family detached dwelling units.

ADDUs are allowed by right in Urban Neighborhood Districts East, West and South and in the Redevelopment District, and are conditional in Corridor Redevelopment Districts Urban and Suburban, Neighborhood Redevelopment District and the newly created Medium-Density Residential District, which is generally found in the area around Harper Avenue. ADDUs are currently prohibited in all other zoning districts.

Planning Commission members did discuss the proposed amendment by Griswold at its packet meeting on Monday, though.

Part of Griswold's issue with the current ordinance is that ADDUs are allowed by right on parcels zoned Redevelopment District, some of which fall in the North College Historic District around Mitcham Avenue. Commission members noted, as they have previously, that the Planning Commission recommended that ADDUs be a conditional use in RDD, a recommendation that the council didn't take — the council, by a 6-3 vote, made ADDUs permitted by right in RDD. 

Commissioner Phillip Chansler noted that if the amendment was adopted as written to include abutting parcels it would make the development currently under construction at the corner of North Gay Street and Drake Avenue nonconforming. Councilwoman Nonet Reese pointed out that the project was approved under the city's single family detached dwelling use before the ADDU ordinance was passed. 

Reese also noted that the main issue with the amendment seemed to be the inclusion of parcels abutting the historic district. 

Planning Director Forrest Cotten said there could be some compatibility issues relating to the size and scale of buildings in a new development on abutting parcels, although Reese also noted that one could buy a parcel on an abutting property and just build an enormous house, which would be permitted by right.

Ultimately, the commission agreed to further discuss the amendment at its July packet meeting and place the amendment on its agenda for its July regular meeting.

Cotten indicated that the Planning Department may not provide a recommendation to the Planning Commission about the amendment.

"The reality of it is if it was something that we were going to recommend, we would have recommended it initially, so I'm certainly not going to recommend approval," he said.

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