Not all residents of Montgomery County are excited about the zoning text amendment proposed by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission staff, which "would allow, by right, 'attached' accessory apartments of up to 1,200 square feet that are located in certain residential and agricultural zones, and 'detached' accessory apartments in specific residential zones," Patch reported earlier this year. (See the zoning text amendment draft online for more details.)
The arguments in favor of the change are that the amendment would allow for more affordable housing, that elderly people could stay in their houses with an income stream coming in from a rental unit and that young people could buy a house and pay the mortgage with help from the rented-unit, Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers Chair Patricia Baptiste said at the village's Council meeting on Monday night.
Current regulations require a special exception for every accessory apartment in Montgomery County, a process that usually takes 9 to 13 months. The county's board of appeals approves special exceptions for an average of 10 apartments each year, Patch reported earlier this year. The zoning text amendment would eliminate the special exception approval process for many properties—for those properties, there would be no public hearing required to create an accessory apartment.
Some Chevy Chase residents dislike the idea of not receiving notice of an accessory apartment being proposed for a neighboring property. The Chevy Chase Village Board of Managers discussed asking the planning commission to re-consider that aspect of the proposed amendment. The Town of Somerset is doing the same thing, Baptiste said.
Baptiste said the proposal does not allow for detached units even by special exception in Chevy Chase Village.
And, she added, with the older housing stock in Chevy Chase and many narrow streets (particularly in Sections 3 and 5 of Chevy Chase), it will be hard to add accessory apartments. Parking along narrow streets would become particularly cumbersome with additional residents living in accessory apartments.
Still, Montgomery County does have supporters for the amendment.
"Shared housing, particularly near transit, benefits the environment," Ethan Goffman of the Montgomery County Sierra Club said in a statement. "In today's difficult economy, accessory apartments are also a social boon. They will provide financial relief for individuals seeking to keep up their mortgage payments, thus lessening foreclosures."
"The legislation takes a step forward by eliminating the onerous and expensive requirement that makes homeowners apply for a special exception," Ben Ross of the Action Committee for Transit said in a statement. "But without additional changes, conversion to two-family houses will remain a practical impossibility for the great majority of homeowners."
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