What is all the fuss about "Accessory Dwelling Units?"
The Board of Trustees is currently considering a local law that will allow homes in Single Family Residential Zoning Districts the ability to add an additional dwelling unit on the property of an existing home. Accessory Dwelling Units have also been called a mother-in-law apartment, granny flat or an in-law suite. The legislation is designed to be a low impact approach to increasing the number of affordable housing units in the Village while also providing a way for seniors in our community to age in place. As has been said by the Westchester County Planning Department, and housing experts with the Village’s Housing Affordability Task Force, this is just one tool in the toolbox to address the affordable housing problem in our region.
What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit? (ADU)
An ADU is a 2nd dwelling unit on the property of an existing home in a Single Family Residential Zone. It can be attached (basement, attic, addition) or detached (garage, cottage). In the proposed legislation, ADUs must include a kitchen and a bathroom, and must adhere to all building code regulations in terms of safety. No more than one ADU is permitted per lot.
Are owners required to live on the property?
Yes. The proposed legislation requires the owner to live on the property in either unit.
Where are ADUs permitted?
In Single Family Residential Zones. Newly constructed detached ADUs are only permitted in zones where the minimum lot size is 15,000 square feet or greater (R-15 through R-80).
How big can an ADU be?
In the proposed legislation ADUs must be a minimum of 300 sq ft and can be a maximum of 1,000 sq ft, but must not be greater than 50% of the size of the existing property. ADUs can have no more than 2 bedrooms. The height of an ADU cannot be greater than 25' or the size of the principal dwelling, whichever is less.
My neighbor has a detached garage bordering my property. Could it be turned into an ADU with tenants suddenly staring into my backyard?
Accessory Dwelling Units must comply with fire and safety regulations and building codes. This means not every garage will be able to conform because of fire safety setback requirements, etc. In some cases, the code may make the renovation cost prohibitive. For instance, the fire sprinkler code Chapter 166 would apply to an ADU in a detached garage. The answer to the question, therefore, is it depends. While the legislation makes it relatively simple to add an Accessory Dwelling Unit within the existing footprint of a dwelling, the units must still meet all of the codes and standards that keep our community safe.
Is additional parking required?
No. Additional parking spaces are not required as long as the required minimum 2 spaces are not removed in the construction of an ADU - i.e. if a garage is turned into an ADU, the property is still required to have two spaces on site for the primary residence, and therefore the site plan must be reviewed by the Planning Board.
Is Land Use Board Review required?
If an ADU is constructed within the existing footprint of a residence, no site plan review is required unless the property is in the historic district or is a historic landmark. However, adherence to building code standards for safety, fire codes, egress, etc, will still be required. If the ADU expands the existing footprint or square footage of the residence, then land use board review is required.
Is my neighborhood going to be transformed by this legislation?
Based on the experiences of other communities, the evidence suggests the answer is no. The purpose of the legislation is to offer a low-density solution to the challenge of affordable housing in our area. The following is data from other Westchester Villages with Accessory Dwelling Unit provisions, the years they were enacted, and the number of units in each community to date (source: Westchester County Planning Department):
- Briarcliff Manor (2014): 26
- Buchanan (1989): 25
- Croton on Hudson (2015): 10
- Hastings on Hudson (1997): 23
- Irvington (2016): 2
- Pleasantville (2020): 5
Anecdotally, Hastings on Hudson has had Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation in place since 1997. Building Inspector Charles Minozzi, Jr. reports that in the 12 years he has been inspecting units and handling application renewals, he has experienced a single complaint from a neighbor regarding a unit and does not perceive a change to neighborhoods as a result of the units in place.
Will there be a revolving door of tenants, or AirBnB guests in and out of my neighborhood?
The legislation requires that Accessory Dwelling Unit rentals be for a minimum of 6 months as a measure to prevent disruptive impact on neighborhood.