Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An explanation of the Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit Overlay zoning bill (BL2015-1120) on the Aug. 18th Agenda.

There is a lot of confusion and concern over what is happening with regards to detached accessory dwelling units in Nashville. BL2015-1120 will be on the agenda August 18th.  I support BL2015-1120 and other bills that advance DADU's. I think that allowing accessory dwelling units on lots will create affordable housing without the heavy hand of government mandating it or imposing price controls. It will also expand the tax base so we can afford to pay off all of the debt the city had accumulated without raising taxes. It will make mass transit more likely to develop and succeed and it will reduce future urban sprawl.  Below is an analysis for BL2015-1120 from the Green Hills Neighborhood Association. 

Dear GHNA Members,

BL2015-1120, creation of Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit Overlay for RS zoned areas, is scheduled for the 3rd and final vote on August 18. Neighborhoods zoned R (allowing duplexes) currently allows DADUs. This bill has been deferred twice due to concerns and opposition from numerous neighborhoods across Nashville. This bill creates the process for a DADU overlay only for RS zoned neighborhoods; it does not create an overlay for any one area. A Council Member would make application to request an overlay for a specific RS zoned area; the request would go through Metro Planning Commission and three votes at Metro Council. The Metro Code reference in this bill (Section 17.16.030 F) provides for some restrictions; 7 and 8 below will be included for DADUs:
  1. One principal dwelling and only one detached accessory dwelling permitted on a single lot. 
  2. The same person who owns the principal dwelling shall own DADU. 
  3. One of the two dwellings must be owner-occupied. 
  4. Living space and dwelling footprint have size restrictions. 
  5. Height restrictions. 
  6. DADU shall be of similar style, design and material color as principal dwelling. 
  7. There must be 30 contiguous lots in an area to request a DADU overlay. 
  8. Any house deemed to have historic eligibility couldn’t be torn down to be replaced with a principal dwelling and a DADU. 
 At the community meeting held on August 3, neighborhoods from across Nashville were represented. CM Burkley Allen conducted the meeting; after explaining the bill and the above restrictions, she stated there are a few RS zoned neighborhoods that would like to keep their RS zoning (as opposed to R zoning which would allow full blown duplexes), but would like to have the option of building a detached accessory dwelling unit behind their existing house. CM Allen stated she was surprised there was so much opposition to this bill creating an overlay.

Below are some of the concerns expressed regarding creating a DADU Overlay in RS zoned neighborhoods: 
  • Neighborhoods have worked too hard to downzone to RS to see the RS zoning weakened by this overlay. We can see a lawyer, like Tom White, coming in and arguing that half the houses in the neighborhood have a second dwelling, so why can’t his client build a duplex? Most thought weakening the definition of RS zoning is opening the door for unintended consequences. Former CM John Summers explained he was on the council when the SP zoning was created; they tried to cover all the future consequences, but over the years things have changed and now SP is just “junk” zoning.  
  • The few RS zoned neighborhoods that want this overlay “want their cake and eat it too,” but they need to decide if they want to be RS or R. They should not be allowed to have it both ways · It was suggested the Planning Department create a new zoning code that describes a principal dwelling with the option of having a second smaller detached accessory dwelling unit. Keep all the restrictions that are in the overlay bill, but create a separate zoning code. That way the RS zoning definition is not weakened. The Planning Dept is reluctant to do this because they would need to make many changes to the Metro Code, but these would be one-time changes. Why should the majority of RS zoned neighborhoods deal with a weakened definition of RS zoning, just so a few neighborhoods can have “their cake and eat it too?” 
  • There is lack of enforcement. Codes simply does not have the manpower to make sure all the restrictions are being followed.  
  • CMs have flexibility as to how they conduct their determination whether to request an overlay or re-zoning. There is no requirement for a certain percentage of property owners’ support to create a DADU Overlay. By comparison, the new Contextual Overlay District created last year requires 100% property owner support. Historic Overlays also require a high standard of support, which has prevented some neighborhoods such as Sylvan Park from receiving a Historic Overlay. Yet the DADU Overlay bill doesn’t specify any level of support at all. 
  • There were concerns about these DADUs being used for AirBnB and short-term rentals. CM Allen responded this is something that may need more thought. Some individuals have converted garages to apartments; they would still be entitled to a DADU. The concern is that they could have two spaces for short-term rental (AirBnB). 
  • Where overlays are approved, this could potentially increase density in our RS neighborhoods. It could affect parking, trash pickup, all types of city services. Most RS neighborhoods do not want the increased traffic and parking. CM Allen stated she is listening and other Council Members are listening. She has a couple of options: 
  1. She could defer this bill indefinitely; since this is the end of the Council term, any bill not acted on dies. It would be necessary for the process to completely start over with the new Council. OR 
  2.  She could withdraw this bill, go back to the Planning Department and request they create a new zoning code for RS neighborhoods that want to have DADUs; the new zoning code would contain all the restrictions found in the DADU portion of the Metro Code. By creating a new code, the RS zoning code would continue to define one single family dwelling on one lot. OR 
  3. She could ask for a final vote on August 18. 
If you have specific questions about this bill, you may contact the sponsor, CM Burkley Allen, at If you have an opinion, please let the Metro Council know before August 18 by sending an e-mail to The GHNA Boar

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