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Wilmington city staff, council argue over "poison pill" that could kill future ADUs

ADU Accessory Dwelling Unit types
An image from the draft LDC shows different styles of Accessory Dwelling Units.

Wilmington is in the midst of reviewing draft land development codes: they’ll define how the city grows and changes for the next several decades. Planners are hoping to see more housing go into existing suburban neighborhoods, but worry that certain elements could kill future development.

The city of Wilmington is keen on facilitating more affordable housing options: especially so-called "missing middle housing," which lies in a sweet spot between a single-family home and an apartment.

Part of the strategy for developing more "missing middle housing" in Wilmington involves accessory dwelling units -- when a cottage is built on an existing single-family lot adjacent to the existing home. They often come from conversions -- being built above a garage or replacing a garage attached to the house.

At a recent informational meeting on the new land use codes, City Planner Ron Satterfield said relatively few ADUs have been built- and the new codes will try to change that.

“We are trying to encourage graceful density and density where it makes sense," he said. "So the thought is, sometimes providing those additional parking spaces may severely limit the ability of someone to be able to build that essential dwelling unit.”

Currently, the city requires two off-site parking spaces in order to build an ADU: such a restriction is called a “poison pill” by strategists, as it disincentivizes development. To deal with that problem, staff changed the code to get rid of any off-street parking requirements for homeowners building an ADU.

But Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes felt that was a problem. "On-street parking is limited,” she said. "If it's a visitor or a part-time, or you're renting it or whatever, there's going to be additional vehicles. We're not a society yet that's doing away without individual vehicles. I just think we need to rethink that a little bit."

Satterfield responded: “Right, the thought process would be that they could park on the street or somewhere else.”

Staff plan to bring more evidence to support scrapping the "poison pill" restrictions to the next meeting, and the public will be able to share their views at that time, too. That public hearing is set for 8:30 am on June 24. Another hearing is set for later in July, and staff hope to pass the land development codes soon, so they can come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.