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The Kodiak Island Borough discussed a possible expansion of the allowable size of accessory dwelling units during the Aug. 29 borough assembly work session.

The planning and zoning commission recommended that the assembly approve an ordinance to change permitted uses, conditional uses and development standards related to parking and size limits of accessory dwelling units.

The changes to borough code would 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. 

A decision on the proposed changes could be reached as early as Thursday, when the assembly will hold a public hearing on the matter. 

A July 3 report prepared by the borough community development department recommends the change to borough code in response to two variance requests submitted to the planning and zoning commission to exceed the permitted 480-square-feet limit on a detached ADU. Both requests were approved unanimously by the commission.

Both requests were made by Kodiak residents choosing to age in place, which is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”

“With Kodiak’s high housing and rent prices, ADUs offer an affordable option for people entering retirement years to remain in Kodiak and remain in or near their homes. They can live in smaller spaces attached or detached from the main home, while they rent out the larger portion of the home,” the report states.

The planning and zoning commission received no public comments opposing this request during the two public meetings when the topic was discussed. However, during a KIB assembly work session on Thursday, community member Ginny Shank spoke in opposition to the possible expansion of permissible ADUs.

“Seven hundred twenty-five is unacceptable to me,” said Shank, who lives in an area designated as Rural Residential. Shank noted that an Aleutian home in Kodiak is 768 square feet, and that the new regulation may significantly increase the number of people living in her neighborhood.

“I’m trying to envisition people in our neighborhood that could build an accessory dwelling unit that is the size of an Aleutian home,” she said. “If you look into the description of our district, it was supposed to be not a big number of people living there.”

Kodiak resident Jeff Stewart also spoke in opposition to the regulation change at Thursday’s work session.

“We’re talking about dodging the current regulations, basically to put a second residence on properties that formerly could only have one residence,” he said. “I happen to live on Island Lake. There are a lot of trees and there are few homes around. And I like it that way. I purchased the property for that reason and I really don’t want a very dense neighborhood. I think it’s unfair to people who have a property and have some land around them, to now change the rules and identity of the area.”

Erin Welty, acting director of the KIB Department of Community Development, spoke in favor of the change at Thursday’s meeting, noting that the code would allow elderly couples to stay in or near their homes once their kids are gone, and to provide a market for more affordable housing in Kodiak.

Welty noted that in Sitka, the size limit for ADUs is 800 square feet. In Anchorage, the code allows for ADUs to be 35% of the total gross area of the principal dwelling, and no less than 300 square feet. Under the Anchorage regulation, a 2,000-square-foot home would allow for a 700-square-foot ADU. 

Many building codes across the country do not allow for any variances in lots that include an ADU, Welty said.

“If you couldn’t meet setbacks, if you couldn’t meet the square footage requirements, you weren’t going to be able to do it. And I think that’s probably a good approach to preventing (ADUs) from getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Welty said.

According to Welty, the planning and zoning commission has been more relaxed about approving variances than Alaska regulations recommend.

“Variances are kind of a funny creature, because it really depends on the mindset of who’s there at the time,” Welty said. “I would say that the Kodiak Island Borough had been a little more lenient.”

Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer voiced support for the introduction of a no-variances requirement.

“I’m really interested in what standard we’re using for allowing or disallowing variances,” Rohrer said. “I wonder if some of these ADU changes would be more acceptable to people if there was something in here that talks about no variances.”

Assembly Member Scott Arndt, who served on the planning and zoning commission for five years, expressed support for the no-variance requirement, and said he hoped to discuss the matter at a public hearing.

“I am very much in favor of that because at the planning and zoning level, there was testimony previous to this ordinance being taken up, about going to 1,000 square feet … and that was not my intent,” Arndt said.

Some members of the planning and zoning commission were concerned about the increased parking requirements, Welty said. She noted that ADU regulations in other boroughs do not require more than one additional parking space for an ADU.

Assembly Member Rebecca Skinner said she does not support the increased parking space requirement.

“The idea is you have to have the area, and you have to have the parking. If you don’t have it, you don’t get it,” said Arndt, who supports the increased parking requirements.

During the assembly’s meeting on Thursday, the public will have an opportunity to testify in favor or against the proposed changes. Assembly members will have the option to accept the recommended changes, decline the recommended changes, or make amendments to the proposed changes. 

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