Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bellevue aldermen OK accessory dwelling units

Council also approves new planning ordinances

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue housing policy made an abrupt 180-degree turn last Thursday when the Bellevue City Council accepted the advice of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission and voted to legalize accessory dwelling units within the city.

Under the new policy, the construction and rental of accessory dwelling units within Bellevue city limits will now be allowed to take place.

Accessory dwellings—also known as mother-in-law apartments—are attached or detached dwellings that are secondary in nature to a primary residential unit and cannot be sold separately from the primary residence.

Just as took place at the P&Z's recent meeting on the accessory dwelling issue, Thursday's discussion at the City Council level drew a large number of city residents who came to support the change.

The change in the city's policy will come as a great benefit to many residents, some of whom have aging parents or other family members who would like to live in Bellevue but can't afford to, Bellevue resident Lori Israel said.

Accessory dwellings can provide a greater sense of privacy for those living in them, Israel said.

"It needs to be a complete separate unit," she said.

Despite citizens' overwhelming support for the idea, the entire council didn't immediately warm to the policy change.

For a brief period, it appeared as though longtime Bellevue Councilwoman Vivian Ivie might be the lone holdout, saying no to accessory dwelling units.

After hearing every citizen strongly supporting it, however, Ivie seemed to change her mind and eventually voted along with the rest of the council to unanimously approve the change.

Bellevue was originally formed as a single-family housing unit community, Ivie said. "It's just hard for me to let go of that," she said.

Under the new rules approved by the council, accessory dwellings in Bellevue may only be provided in conjunction with single-family dwelling units and not as an addition to a duplex or multi-family unit. Additionally, they will only be allowed on lots 6,000 square feet or greater in size that directly abut improved public streets.

To be approved for construction, accessory dwelling units would still have to go through a detailed design review process before Bellevue P&Z commissioners.

Based on a request by Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles, the council only voted to proceed with the first of three public readings on the change. Eckles made the request so he could clean up several aspects of the city's design review ordinance to better address design review for accessory dwelling units.

Once those changes are made, the council will proceed with the final two readings to approve the new policy.

In other Bellevue news:

• During the same meeting, council members voted to approve two new ordinances that will be a critical component of the city's consideration of three large annexation requests for lands northeast and south of Bellevue. Approved were both a planned unit development ordinance and a development agreement ordinance. Both were in the drafting process for about a year.

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