The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted to postpone a decision on an amendment to accessory dwelling unit regulations during a regular meeting Thursday. The assembly will hold another public hearing on the amendment during its Oct. 3 meeting.
If approved, the proposed amendment would change the permitted uses and development standards of ADUs.
The amendment proposed to increase the permitted size of ADUs to 575 square feet in R1 and R2 districts, and 725 square feet in all other districts. Currently, ADUs cannot exceed 480 square feet.
Additionally, the changes would require two additional off-street parking spaces for any lot with an ADU up to 600 square feet in size and three additional off-street parking spaces for any lot with an ADU that exceeds 600 square feet. Currently, only one additional parking space is required for a lot with an ADU.
Assembly Member Scott Arndt moved to postpone the decision on the amendment to Oct. 3, allowing for another public hearing and giving assembly members additional time to further change the proposed amendment.
The motion to postpone carried 4-2, with Assembly Members James Turner and Julie Kavanaugh voting against postponing. Assembly Member Andy Schroeder was not present at the meeting.
Prior to postponing the final decision on the ordinance, assembly members voted to include a no-variance clause in the amendment.
“Limitations due to natural features, lot dimensions, building layout or other physical or environmental factors shall not be reasons for granting a variance,” the clause states.
Limits on variances “prevent the overcrowding that concerns a lot of people and some of the other issues that could come into play with accessory dwelling units,” according to Erin Welty, acting director of the borough’s Community Development Department.
The vote on the no-variance clause passed 5-1, with Assembly Member Rebecca Skinner voting against it. However, it will only take effect if the amendment is passed in the October vote.
The vote to postpone a decision on the amendment came after the assembly received comments from members of the public.
Kodiak resident Ginny Shank spoke against the ordinance at Thursday’s meeting, noting that she has testified on the matter many times before.
“Essentially the effect of this ordinance is taking away the right to have a single-family home neighborhood,” Shank said. “I do not believe it is in the best interests of citizens living in rural residential zones.”
“With this proposed change to permitted use, it would be taking away that all-important step of people in an RR neighborhood having any voice at all,” Shank added.
In the Rural Residential zoning district, the amendment proposed to classify ADUs as a permitted use. Currently, they are a conditional use, meaning that neighbors are notified and given the opportunity to provide input when a request for an ADU is submitted. If passed, the amendment would allow individuals to construct ADUs without notifying neighbors or seeking their input.
In the Rural Residential 1 zoning district, the amendment proposed to make both attached and detached ADUs a permitted use. Currently, detached ADUs are classified as a conditional use in the RR1 district, meaning they require neighbor notification, while attached ADUs are classified as permitted use.
Assembly Member Scott Smiley was opposed to designating ADUs as permitted use, saying there should be a mechanism of informing neighbors when a homeowner chooses to build an ADU.
“I do wish there was a way to inform a reasonable amount of neighbors if a change in the neighborhood is going to occur,” Smiley said.
Welty emphasized that if classified as permitted use, ADUs could be constructed without notifying neighbors, unless the borough code is changed.
Kodiak resident Jeff Stewart also spoke against the ordinance, saying that expanding the ADU size would effectively turn many single-family homes into duplexes.
“Let’s be clear about what is an ADU. Simply, it’s a specific kind of duplex, the requirements for which can be changed at any time by a vote of four members of the Borough Assembly, and with the public having no voice in this conversation,” Stewart said.
Stewart noted that the proposed change might increase property value for homes with ADUs, while devaluing the property of nearby neighbors.
Stewart also raised a concern over the possible burden increased ADU sizes would have on wells and septic systems in rural residential area.
Kodiak resident Sid Pruitt, who works in sewage waste collection, agreed that adding large ADUs might put pressure on existing septic systems.
“If you’re going to put two houses on one septic, you need to make sure they get pumped up regularly, probably every year,” he said. “The solids bleed over into the drain field and plug it up. And then you have a hydraulic problem.”
However, Welty said that the existing building permit process would prevent overwhelming septic systems.
Former Community Development Director Sara Fraser spoke in favor of the changes.
Fraser noted that the Community Development Department received numerous phone calls and inquiries over the last two years regarding ADUs but that most ultimately chose not to build, primarily because “people just thought that there were hurdles that were insurmountable, so they didn’t apply.”.
Fraser said she thinks the permissible ADU size should be calculated as a percentage of the principal dwelling unit size, rather than a fixed size as was proposed in the amendment.
“But I absolutely appreciate that you’re increasing the size. So I think at this point, anything is better than the 480 square feet,” she said.
However, Fraser said she is not in favor of the mandated additional parking spaces.
Skinner was similarly opposed to the additional parking requirement.
“I think that requiring all the extra parking spaces ignores the fact that some people don’t have cars or choose to not have cars and choose to not drive,” she said. “I think we’re imposing a certain assumption or expectation that may or may not be true.”
Speaking in favor of the parking requirement, Arndt said occupants of a larger ADU would typically be a young couple who would have two vehicles.
“And if they’ve been here for a while, and they’re doing well, they’ve got some play toys, too, And that’s the reason for the three parking spaces,” he said.
Some community members spoke in favor of the ADU expansion at Thursday’s meeting.
Joe Chaulklin testified that his home at Cliff Point Estates, which is currently under construction, includes an ADU that exceeds the current 480 square-foot limitation. However, he said he recognizes some of the concerns of individuals who live in high-density areas and is in favor of the no-variance and the parking requirement.
Michael Martin Jr. also spoke in favor of the ADU expansion, saying that the size limit prevented him from caring for his aging great-grandmother.
“She wanted to die here in the house that she built with her husband,” he said. “She needed 24/7 care, and that is an issue sometimes. That’s not something that’s easy to do.”
“This size restriction just increases that difficulty for those who do manage to find the option to be able to support loved ones in their family homes,” he added.
Martin is also a majority owner of Oceanfront Kodiak LLC, a corporation that owns the luxury housing development Cliff Point Estates.
Fraser noted that when ADUs were last discussed by the assembly in 2017, a summary of public comments on the topic revealed that of 33 people that commented from RR and RR1 districts, only seven people opposed the ADU ordinance.
Welty warned about the imbalanced perspective that might arise from the limited public comment received on the topic.
“In these situations, you typically only hear from the people objecting,” Welty said.
While some residents were concerned about the contents of the amendment, Kodiak resident Leo Kouremetis wrote a letter to the assembly objecting to Arndt’s involvement in the process.
The original amendment was proposed by Arndt during the June 20 assembly meeting. Kouremetis expressed concern over Arndt’s possible profit from the ordinance change due to his work as a contractor in Kodiak.
“Due to Arndt’s conflict of interest as an assembly member and a contractor, I object to allowing him to vote on any actions or decisions made regarding this proposal,” he wrote.
Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer said in response that Arndt didn’t have a conflict of interest during Thursday’s vote, because “these zoning rules impact (Arndt) the same as they impact everybody else in this room.”
Rohrer said he discussed the issue with the borough attorney, who confirmed that assembly members do not have a conflict of interest “when the rule is of a broad nature, such that every citizen is impacted the exact same way.”