City’s ADU standards take spotlight again at planning commission

The Keizer Planning Commission spent its November meeting bringing Keizer’s development codes relating to accessory dwelling units (ADUs) into line with recent changes instituted by the Oregon Legislature. 

Two potentially dramatic changes received no discussion during the meeting because the legislative action nullified previous regulations implemented by the city. 

“As a result of HB 2001, local governments cannot require additional parking for ADUs and cannot require owner occupancy,” said Shane Witham, senior planner for the city. 

Both topics were part of lengthy discussions by members of the planning commission last year. At that time, commissioners recommended requiring a property owner to occupy one of the dwelling units on a property and requiring additional on-site parking if on-street parking is not available. 

Instead, the size of ADUs took centerstage at the meeting Nov. 13. 

Previously, the limit was set at 750 square feet, but Lamont Hostetler, a builder from West Salem, said the state-recommended 900 square feet for detached ADUs was more accommodating for a variety of floor plans, especially when a two-bedroom ADU was desired. 

“With 900 feet you can build a nicer property and enhance the neighborhood and maintain the quality of the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Garry Witham.

Commissioner Jeremy Grenz played devil’s advocate.

“I see the 750 square feet fitting more the low-income housing that is needed in Keizer and the two-bedroom as another rental that goes for $1,400 a month,” Grenz said. 

Despite that concern, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend a flat cap of 900 square feet on ADUs or 75 percent of the main dwelling, whichever is smaller. 

The one potential issue Witham saw with the change was ending up with large lots that have two nearly equally-sized dwellings. The change introduces the possibility of a development loophole, but property owners have other options like partitioning a lot for additional homes or building the second dwelling as the larger of the two on a property. 

Witham also asked commissioners to weigh in on a proposal to limit the size of attached ADUs after running into a situation where one applicant built a duplex under the the guise of an ADU. Doing so prevented the Keizer planning department from determining whether a duplex fit into the neighborhood and allowed the builder to pay a reduced permitting fee. 

“A duplex is a different kind of housing stock and ADUs require zero parking and will share utilities. If they are equal, it is not an accessory,” Witham said.

The planning department proposed that attached ADUs comprise no more than 40 percent of the main dwelling space. 

Commissioners felt that standard was acceptable.