Granny flat gripes

Rattlesnake resident Carma Gilligan came to the Dec. 3 Missoula City Council meeting armed with handouts detailing what she sees as the downsides of accessory dwelling units.

"I'm against them completely," Gilligan told the council.

Missoula now forbids construction of more than one house on a parcel inside a single-family district in the University, Slant Street and Rattlesnake neighborhoods, among others.

Ward 3 Councilman Alex Taft proposes changing the provision to allow construction of one additional rental unit. The idea, Taft says, is to ease Missoula's chronically tight housing market, while taking a financial strain off homeowners. Locals like Gilligan worry that more density will bring increased traffic and noise and, in doing so, change neighborhood character.

In an effort to alleviate concern, council spent the past several weeks tweaking Taft's original proposal, limiting, for instance, the maximum ADU size to 600 square feet, rather than 800, as first proposed. Similarly, the Plat Annexation and Zoning Committee's draft ordinance now requires that a public hearing be held, along with a council vote, before a property owner is allowed to build a detached ADU.

Not everyone is satisfied with those changes. Gilligan told the Independent that she doesn't mind attached ADUs, or those added onto an existing home. She believes attached ADUs will be more likely to have an owner live onsite, minimizing the chances a property will fall into disrepair. The PAZ Committee in its draft ordinance requires that ADU owners live onsite. But Gilligan worries that people will skirt it.

During the Monday night hearing, Ward 1 Councilman Dave Strohmaier attempted again to build consensus by proposing that a full-blown rezoning process be required before a property owner build a detached ADU. If Strohmaier's amendment were approved, a protest from 25 percent of landowners within 150 feet of a proposed granny flat would make a council super-majority vote necessary to gain approval.

Gilligan likes that idea, but Strohmaier's colleagues aren't sold. Ward 2's Cynthia Wolken and Ward 6's Ed Childers said during the meeting that Strohmaier's amendment would make ADUs prohibitively expensive.

Mayor John Engen broke a tie vote, sending the ordinance back to committee this week for further refinement—and, no doubt, further debate.

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