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Planning Department Seeks Rule Change for Accessory Apartments

Community members can learn more at public meetings Monday afternoon and evening.

The Montgomery County Planning Department for the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission has proposed a zoning text amendment that would make it easier for county residents to operate accessory apartments without always going through an extensive special exception approval process.

What is an accessory apartment? The county defines it as "a completely independent living facility with separate cooking, eating, sanitation and sleeping facilities that is either in or added to an existing single-family dwelling or in a separate accessory structure on the same lot as an existing dwelling."

Community members can learn more about this proposed ZTA at two public meetings today, from 3-4:30 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the at 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring.

At each meeting, planning department staff will give a brief presentation, then open the floor for a question-and-answer period, with additional time for community members to talk with staff, according to the Planning Department's website.

The Planning Department proposes distinguishing between accessory apartment based on two main factors: the size of the apartment and whether it is "attached" or "detached" from the home.

Read the proposed ZTA in full on the Planning Department's website.

Are you for or against relaxing the regulations for accessory apartments? Tell us why in the comments.

ED May 21, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I am against relaxing the regulations on accessory apartments. Currently, there are Special Exception procedures that allow accessory apartments or boarding houses, but home owner's are not using this procedure and there is no code enforcement in place to force people to "legalize" the accessory apartments or boarding houses that are out there right now. If the County allows "permitted" accessory apartments (even at 300 feet apart) without increased code enforcement, every single-family neighborhood could become multi-family neighborhoods without the infrastructure to support them. If the Special Exception process is too costly or too time consuming, the Special Exception process should be updated. Regardless, the code enforcement policy needs updating to protect the single-family home neighborhoods from the over-crowding and parking problems that some neighborhoods are currently suffering through.
TaL May 21, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Ed-?This rule change is to legalize the low income housing ghetto in the Wheaton area. The county wants to make sure it can maintain "affordable housing" but wants to keep it concentrated away from all the decent folk West of the Park. By legalizing the already existing transient housing with all of its attendant problems, and keeping housing prices and quality of life low in the Wheaton-Glenmont area the county accomplishes two of its primary goals in one fell swoop.
ED May 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM
There is nothing in this zoning text amendment that protects single-family homes "West of the Park" (unless they have an HOA or condo agreement that specifically bans them). Hopefully, single-family home owners all over the County will open their eyes and protect their investments regardless of where they live. As far as the "affordable housing" justification for this, the County has no idea how many affordable units are out there because they can not currently enforce or even count them. This zoning text amendment, with it's 300 foot limit, will not prevent "legal" accessory apartments from being added to the numerous "illegal" accessory apartments. Without beefed up code enforcement, areas that currently have "illegal" single-family home uses could suffer from additional units under the guise of being "permitted". I hope everyone shows up at the MNCPPC open houses today and speaks out!
Commentous May 21, 2012 at 05:05 PM
To me, the conversation and the rule seem a bit academic. These houses have flourished in Wheaton over the past decade, and there are no County resources or efforts to enforce code. Consequently, whether you legitimize it or not, it's going to continue to happen and will happen more frequently in lower-cost areas of the county simply because rent is cheaper: $1,600 rent monthly for a detached house is a lot easier to cover--regardless of the number of families or people living there--than $3,500 rent monthly. ED--The proposal makes clear that the purpose is to increase "housing affordability" in "developing communities" around DC. So lower-cost areas like Wheaton, Aspen Hill, and Glenmont, for example, ARE the focus for legalizing "accessory apartments" (i.e., multiple family dwellings) much more than Bethesda, Potomac, and Chevy Chase, for example.
ED May 22, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Commentous - this zoning text amendment only applies to "home owners", not renters - you have to live in the house in order to have an accessory apartment. Regardless, there are no plans to increase code enforcement regardless of where you live. It will hit the "lower-cost areas" such as Wheaton much harder, but it will hit Bethesda, Potomac, and Chevy Chase also and it is in those areas that have more clout when it comes to "not in my back yard". Even though I am totally opposed to this proposal (regardless of where it is), I'm happy that all areas of the County will need to worry and will speak up.

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