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Salt Lake City Council approves mother-in-law apartment ordinance

By Ashley Imlay, KSL | Updated - Oct. 16, 2018 at 10:24 p.m. | Posted - Oct. 16, 2018 at 9:41 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units, also known as mother-in-law apartments, citywide.

"We have spent an enormous, an amazing amount of time on this ordinance. And I think we need to pass it tonight and see how it shakes out in our community … and come back and revisit it in two to three years and see how it's taken shape," said Councilman Derek Kitchen prior to Tuesday's vote.

"This will not fix the affordable housing issue in our community, but when we have such a tight housing market, adding any units will inevitably help us bring down rent, even nominally," Kitchen said.

An accessory dwelling unit is a second living space built next to or attached to an existing home on a single-family property.

The ordinance passed with a 5-1 vote.

During the meeting, Councilman Charlie Luke, who voted against the ordinance, expressed his concern about how the measure could affect the aesthetics of the city.

"I've worked on this issue more than I've worked on any other issue that we've been faced with as a city," he said. "This is an unenforceable ordinance. It has the potential of drastically changing the look and feel of our neighborhoods."

Over the past several months, the Salt Lake City Council has had numerous briefings on recommendations from the city's planning and zoning staff, after, despite having the votes to pass an ordinance last year, the council sent it back to staff for more tweaking.

Currently, Salt Lake City only allows accessory dwelling units to be built within a half mile of a fixed transit station. But the new ordinance will allow them citywide, with some caveats.

Those include requiring a conditional use permit in the Foothill residential district and for single-family residential zoning districts, the only zoning districts that allow detached single-family dwellings.

The ordinance will allow the accessory units in all other residential zoning districts that already allow duplexes, triplexes and multi-family units as permitted uses. It will also eliminate a cap of 25 permits per year.

As one of the most controversial changes among council members, the new ordinance will loosen the requirement that the owner listed on the deed must reside on the property.

Instead, the ordinance would still require an owner occupant — but would allow any person who is related by blood, marriage or adoption to qualify as the owner occupant. The ordinance would also allow the owner occupant to be a trustor of a family trust that possesses legal ownership of the property.

Before Tuesday's vote, Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said the issue was not about "cheap apartments" but about helping people "age in place."

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