Sups defer proposed ordinance 60 days

The Board of Supervisors will wait 60 days to revisit a proposed ordinance that would make it easier for homeowners to add a smaller, independent dwelling to their homes to house ailing family members.

Last month, Planning Administrator Beverly Rogers said on Dec. 1, the board approved several state-mandated ordinance amendments; among them was one allowing temporary health care units in residential districts.

“Those temporary units could potentially be out of character with the residential area,” she said. Concerns about the possible impact of the temporary units led to the initiation of an amendment that would allow attached family dwellings – two attached, independent dwelling units with occupancy limitations – in residential and agricultural districts.

Currently, a homeowner who wants to add a second unit with a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas to their home must get a conditional use permit, a staff report says. The application fee is $1,000. Permits requested to allow for the care of a family member are very rarely denied, Rogers said.

The proposed amendment would allow “attached family dwellings” through an administrative, rather than conditional use, process. The restrictions would be more stringent, and this option would come with a one-time fee of $100, Rogers said.

When the family member no longer needs care, the unit can be occupied by immediate family members of the property owner, or the owner could get a conditional use permit for the unit or remove part of the kitchen, for example, so it’s no longer an independent unit.

Matoaca Supervisor Marleen Durfee asked who would be responsible for monitoring that the unit is in compliance. Rogers said the homeowner would have to return to the planning department each year and certify whether the family still needed care and, if not, who was living in the unit.

“This ordinance gives the planning department, like the temporary units, the right of entry,” Rogers said. “It gives us a yearly review, and it, I think, allows better enforcement through our code enforcement to ensure that who is supposed to be residing in that unit is, in fact, as per the ordinance.”

Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker said he felt like this was “a good effort toward an OK goal,” but it seemed like the county was trying to fix a problem it didn’t have with a mechanism that would call for more government intrusion in residents’ lives. Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said it seemed the proposed ordinance would cause more problems than it would solve.

Durfee said she thought the policy should be deferred because “we need more time.”

Planning Director Kirk Turner said this was a “cutting edge” idea that would expand the county’s “comfort zone.” But, at this point, he thinks the county is better served by ramping up its comprehensive plan efforts and seeing what it recommends for housing, he said.

The board voted 3-2, with Gecker and Jackle in dissent, to defer the matter for 60 days.

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