ADU Regulation Reform

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission is hosting a community discussion about possible changes to the zoning code related to Accessory Dwelling Units (aka: ADUs). This conversation is the result of a report of possible policy changes created by the Housing Advisory Committee.

The related documents from Housing Advisory Committee are:

Note: It is emphasized over and over that this is a discussion. These are not policy proposals, there is no proposed language. The Planning Commission is seeking feedback. No decisions are made during community discussions.

In order to kick-off the communty dicussion the representatives of the Planning Commission showed a very large sheet of two alternatives compared to the existing code. The alternatives are not discrete - each line item is independent. There was also an "Alternative #3" where people could write-in their own suggestions. The sheet was something like the table below, or the full document is available here

Current regulation Alternative #1 Alternative #2
(5.5.05.B) ADUs require a special land use permit Permit by right in LDR & MDR subject to use requirements Permit by right where certain conditions are met
(5.9.03.A) One ADU is permitted; attached or detached. Permit one attached and one detached ADU -
(5.9.03.B) ADUs limited to lots of 5,000sq/ft or more Eliminate lot size requirement Reduce requirement to 3,000sq/ft.
(5.9.03.E) ADUs are not permitted in front yards. Allow ADUs in front yards -
(5.10.04.C) 1 parking space per ADU plus .25 spaces per bedroom over 1 bedroom Eliminate requirement Reduce requirement to 1 space per ADU
(5.9.03.D) complex formula about height 20ft or 15ft based on setbacks allow 2 story structures
(5.9.03.F) Max size 400 - 850sq/ft based on 25% of primary structure keep range, raise ratio to 50% keep range, raise ratio to 75%
(5.9.03.G) Max 2 bedrooms & 2 persons allow 4 persons eliminate limit on persons, goes to Housing Code for regulation
(5.9.03.H) Primary structure must be owner occupied eliminate requirement -
(5.9.03.I) Short-term rentals (30 days or less) not permitted eliminate restriction -
(5.9.03.K) Deed restriction, ADUs and primary structure cannot be separated eliminate restriction -

It was noted by Planning Commission representatives that the change to 5.9.03.F regarding proportionality to the primary structure reflects the policies seen in other cities faced with shortages of affordable housing; Seattle was one example.

The parking issue was discussed - of course. Suggestions where made to have the requirement for parking round off, rather than round up: so that a requirement of 3.25 would be 3 rather than 4. Currently the policy rounds up. Requirements of four or more parking spaces restricts the supply of housing. Also recommended by multiple community members was to waive the parking requirement for ADUs on blocks served by transit.

Concerns relating to set-back requirements were raised as well. The current set-backs for an Accessory Structure are 3ft. For new construction of ADUs there was interest in a 5ft setback requirement, especially if the structure is two stories.

This is a discussion - you should communicate with your neighbors and the Planning Commission regarding this issue. There will be a review of the feedback as well as a conversation about single-family attached housing (rowhouses) on November 2nd, starting at 5:30pm, hosted at 1120 Monroe Ave NW

For clarification purposes what an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is, is defined in the code 5.16.02.H.1:

DWELLING UNIT, ACCESSORY. A secondary and clearly subordinate dwelling unit that is contained within a detached single-family dwelling (primary dwelling unit), included within an accessory structure, or separate from but located on the same lot as a detached single-family dwelling. Also known as a "granny flat."