Council nixes plans to upsize accessory dwelling units


In a rare move, the Keizer City Council reversed course on a recommendation to expand the size of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) at its meeting Monday, Dec. 2. 

The council opted to keep a limit of 750 square feet on detached ADUs despite a recommendation from the Keizer Planning Commission to allow up to 900 square feet. 

“The question is whether we want to create additional housing or create loopholes for other development,” said Councilor Laura Reid. 

The planing commission held a lengthy discussion regarding the increase at its November meeting and concluded increasing the cap to 900 square feet would give builders more options as far as floor plans. However, changes mandated by the Oregon Legislature – with the intent of increasing more varied types of housing, and not simply more rentals – were the reason the city was looking at the issue again for the second time in two years. 

A West Salem builder requested the increase and the planning commissioners generally agreed with his reasoning. 

Councilor Elizabeth Smith was in attendance at the planning commission meeting and said the swiftness with which the request was incorporated into the plans alarmed her at the time, and the idea hadn’t grown on her in the intervening weeks. 

“I don’t think that is in alignment with what we are trying to change,” she said. 

Councilor Dan Kohler offered the only argument for keeping the higher square footage. 

“These days it’s not so much a mother-in-law cottage as a place for a daughter with two kids,” Kohler said. ADUs are sometimes known as mother-in-law cottages harkening back to a time when elderly parents were the most likely to take up residence in such units. 

City Manager Chris Eppley asked if there were likely to be more requests for ADUs at the higher square footage. 

“No, I don’t believe it will,” replied Brown. “ It isn’t luxurious, but it is doable and livable at 750 [square feet].” 

The city has processed 11 requests for ADU permits in the past year.