The Cape Charles Town Council continues to discuss the possibility of adding accessory dwelling units to the zoning ordinance as a conditional use. A concern for adequate affordable housing has been a priority of the town for the last several years.
According to a staff report from the last Town Council Regular Meeting, accessory dwelling units “would add to the variety of housing types addressed in the Town comprehensive plan”.
While the current zoning prohibits accessory dwelling units, the comprehensive plan promotes the use. The Planning Commission and Planner Larry DiRe have working on language to reconcile the discrepancy between current ordinances and the comprehensive plan.
Accessory dwelling units are not guest houses, but are considered “independent dwelling units within the footprint of an allowable accessory use building”. Staff is not recommending that the use should be ‘by-right’, but instead should be a proposed conditional use.
“Potential applicants should know the criteria by which their applications will be judged. At the same time, through the conditional use public hearing process, impacted parties should have a spatial context to judge for themselves the merit of each application beyond mere “taste” or personal preference or personal animosity,” –staff report.
Using the portion of the ordinance that deals with bed and breakfasts, the town, relative to density, is using the maximum number of bedrooms (6) and applied to accessory dwelling units. The number of allowable bedrooms will include the number from the main residence and the accessory dwelling unit. According to DiRe, this is one method to control or limit density issues, whether it is occupancy, parking, trash collection, etc.
Councilman Steve Bennett questioned how DiRe came up with number 6 as a recommendation. DiRe stated that it was a practical application of what is already known by existing buildings—using what is used during the conditional use process for bed and breakfasts. Over 6 accommodation bedrooms is considered a hotel.
Mayor Proto asked whether the town would be able to place a restriction on the uses of accessory dwelling, such as prohibiting short term rentals. DiRe responded that the question was a property issue, and would need to be taken up with the town attorney before denying an owner a property right.