Housing concerns postpone proposed ‘ADU’ law
Whitfield and Bayshore residents express reservations about ‘accessory dwelling units’
By Dale White
MANATEE COUNTY — Residents from Whitfield Estates and Bayshore Gardens convinced the Manatee County Commission on Thursday to postpone acting on a proposed law intended to create more affordable housing and to explore whether their neighborhoods, and possibly others, could be exempted from it.
The commissioners are considering an ordinance that will allow “accessory dwelling units,” such as garage apartments, to be built on the same lots as larger primary residences.
Given the concerns they heard at the public hearing, the commissioners canceled a second hearing that had been scheduled for Aug. 1. They intend to talk with county planners about tightening the proposal to address square footage, parking and other
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Affordable housing advocates insist the types of apartments often called “bachelor’s quarters,” “granny flats” or “inlaw units,” which already exist in many older neighborhoods, are needed for working people who are priced out of market-rate rentals.
They also contend that many households may need the units for family members, such as an elderly parent.
ADUs have become especially popular elsewhere, such as California cities also experiencing soaring housing costs. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose are reporting large increases in ADU applications. AARP California has consistently supported state legislation to make it easier to build ADUs.
Commissioners noted that some older homes in Whitfield, which dates back to the 1920s, have small garage apartments.
Unlike the “guest houses” that can now be built in the unincorporated area, “accessory dwelling units” — which must be structures other than mobile homes — can include kitchens.
The owner of a residential property with an ADU must reside either in the main house or the accessory dwelling.
The commissioners received letters of opposition from the Whitfield Estates Ballentine Manor Association, Bayshore Gardens Park and Recreation District, former County Commissioner Ron Getman, Commissioner Misty Servia’s District 4 Citizens Coalition on Growth and many petitioners.
Supporters include the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Planning Commission and the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.
The draft ordinance set the maximum size of an accessory unit at 1,000 square feet.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore suggested 600 to 700 square feet would be more appropriate. Servia said she may prefer the units be even smaller.
Worries about vacation rentals
Opponents stress that, though the intent may be to create more affordable housing, the units could instead become vacation rentals.
“What you’re going to have are uncontrolled rentals,” Whitfield resident Robert Wise warned.
“We are already dealing with cars parking on front yards,” Whitfield resident Carol Martin said.
Susanna Young, a Bayshore resident, called ADUs “a good concept.” Yet she objected to “a blanket ordinance” instead of having neighborhoods allow it by choice. She and others said the law would essentially convert single-family zoning into multi-family zoning.
Mike Holderness, a real estate agent and Whitfield resident, said he would have to disclose to a potential homebuyer that a neighboring property has an ADU that could affect property values.
“The ADUs will violate our neighborhood integrity,” Whitfield resident Charles Orcutt said.
Because developers of new suburbs will not include affordable housing, they “put the burden on us,” Whitfield resident Marnie Matarese said of existing neighborhoods.
Whitfield resident Norm Luppino acknowledged that some older homes there have ADUs, but the apartments were intended not as rental units but as housekeepers’ quarters, he said.
Bill Espy, president of Whitfield’s residents association, said that, if the ordinance is enacted as written, “it could devastate our historic neighborhood.” Espy stressed that ADUs would add more impervious surface to an area that already has flooding problems.
Servia said she is concerned about allowing more construction in “coastal high hazard” areas. She said the county has not heard from neighborhoods that may be unaware that the ADU ordinance could affect them.
Servia said she would prefer the county try the concept in a small area as “a pilot project” before expanding it to more neighborhoods.
A home for sale in the Whitfield Estates area during 2017.
Manatee County commissioners are considering an ordinance that will allow “accessory dwelling units,” such as garage apartments, to be built on the same lots as larger primary residences. [HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / THOMAS BENDER]