Denser zoning a bad plan
May 4, 2014
Would you like it if one (or both) of your neighbors built a second house on their property, perhaps even a two-story house with an attached garage? Would it be OK if that second house spoiled your view or lowered the value of your property? Most homeowners would not find that acceptable, but that is exactly what is being proposed to the Board of County Commissioners.
For years homeowners have been allowed to build an "accessory dwelling," often referred to as a "mother-in-law" unit, but this was originally capped at 600 square feet. Not long ago the maximum size was raised to 800 square feet, but the current proposal would allow 1,200 square feet on all the thousands of lots on 1 acre or more in Douglas County! Bigger, bigger, bigger. A 100 percent increase in just a few years! To make matters worse, staff and the Commissioners have said that it doesn't have to be for a family member, but that it can just be a rental home.
The County Code states that for all zoning districts from one acre to 19 acres that "no more than one home per parcel is permitted." The proposal allowing 1200 square foot "accessory dwellings" would undermine all the zoning in Douglas County, and make a mockery of land use planning. It would destroy neighborhoods.
Land Use Policy 2.4 (from the Master Plan) states that "Douglas County shall … protect residential neighborhoods from encroachment of incompatible activities or land uses which may have a negative impact on the residential living environment." Certainly allowing additional homes on every lot one acre or larger would have that "negative impact."
Land Use Policy 2.7 states that "Douglas County shall consider issues of community character, environmental impact, resident security and safety, aesthetics, and efficient service provision." Doubling the potential number of homes in any community would certainly have a negative effect on its character, not to mention more cars, parking issues, water & sewer (or septic) issues, safety, aesthetics, etc. etc.
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Residents who buy or build homes in our communities should have a reasonable expectation of what might or might not be built on surrounding properties. This ordinance would turn that idea on its head.
This is a planning matter, and was rightfully heard first by the Planning Commission. They did not approve an increase in the maximum size of accessory dwellings, not to 1,200 square feet, not even to 1,000 square feet. County Commissioners, too, should leave the maximum at 800 square feet.
Some Commissioners have said that this proposal could increase available housing, and even add to the supply of "affordable housing." While these may be worthy goals, this is not the way to go about it, by adding additional homes to lots in existing residential communities.
If you find this proposal unacceptable, I urge you to contact Mimi Moss, head of Community Development (782-6201), stop by the Planning counter on the second floor of the Minden Inn, phone/email the County Commissioners, or plan to attend the May 1 Commissioners meeting in Minden. Maintaining the character of our communities demands your action.