After four years of discussion, the Hailey City Council unanimously passed a new housing ordinance Monday allowing residents of Deerfield, Northridge and Northstar subdivisions—in addition to other neighborhoods within the city’s two Limited Residential zoning districts—to build their own accessory-dwelling units, or ADUs.
The units, also known as “mother-in-law apartments,” can take on many forms, from detached guest houses to above-garage or basement apartments.
Monday’s code change specifies that accessory-dwelling units must be 1,000 square feet or under and provide standalone kitchen and bathroom facilities. The ordinance also specifies that only one of two units on a property can be a short-term rental, and the other unit needs to be either owner-occupied or a long-term rental.
Though no one spoke during Monday’s public-comment session, a few residents from the city’s Limited Residential districts said during previous meetings that they hoped to build their own ADUs to accommodate aging family members or recent college graduates.
“There hasn’t been much public participation. This has been a pretty quiet issue,” Councilman Sam Linnet said Monday.
Other commenters in past meetings worried about ADUs potentially towering over homes, blocking sunshine, infringing on neighbors’ privacy and creating more traffic. To mitigate those concerns, the ordinance sets up a two-bedroom maximum for ADUs, requires one on-site parking spot per unit and specifies that the units are built in line with any height regulations and other code restrictions for whichever zone the main dwelling sits on, including setback and privacy requirements.
The height limit in the General Residential district is 35 feet and the Limited Residential zones have a 30-foot limit, according to Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz.
Ever since Horowitz formally introduced the ordinance last spring, Planning and Zoning commissioners and City Council members have lauded it for its potential to provide lower-cost workforce housing and increase property value. The P&Z previously considered expanding ADUs in 2017 but dropped that proposal due to objections from residents of Old Hailey.
Since 2003, accessory-dwelling units have been allowed in Old Hailey and the General Residential district. (The General Residential zone encompasses south Woodside and several smaller subdivisions, such as Bluebird and China Gardens.) But up until this week, ADUs were prohibited in Hailey’s LR-1 and LR-2 zoning districts, which account for about half of Hailey’s residential neighborhoods.
Anyone interested in building an accessory-dwelling unit will need to go through a brief review process with one member of the P&Z Commission and at least one city staff member. Neighbors will have just over two weeks to comment on proposed ADUs, and any design that “merits further review” will be bumped up to the P&Z for a public hearing.
According to Horowitz, the city has approved around five ADUs per year up until this point, mostly one-bedroom units for family use. As of last November, there were just under three dozen short-term rentals in Hailey city limits out of 3,400 residential units, she said.