Urban County Council to get first formal look at ADU proposal

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — After years of on-again, off-again discussion and four months of intense work, the Lexington Fayette County Urban County Council will get its first official look  Tuesday at a plan for accessory dwelling units in the city.

Overall, Council members suggest it balances the need for property owners’ flexibility and the need for affordable housing with efforts to maintain quality neighborhoods.

The ADU proposal is on the Urban Council’s agenda for its 3 p.m. work session Tuesday when the General Government & Social Services Committee reports out its draft ordinance.

It comes after hours of work and notes:

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are essentially a secondary, smaller residential space that exists on a lot in tandem with a traditional single-family house. Despite ADUs existing across the city, Lexington is now in the process of (potentially) re-legalizing them.

  • In 2019, the Divisions of Planning and Senior Services made a public case for ADU legislation after the adoption of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, tying it to a strategy to address Lexington’s quickly aging population and affordable housing shortage.

  • On September 14, the Planning and Public Safety Committee held a public hearing about their proposed zoning ordinance text amendment (ZOTA) to allow ADUs to any single family home in Lexington. In this hearing, the ADU ZOTA changed significantly.

The current proposal as expected to be presented to the committee states:

  • The City’s ADU ZOTA would create a “Pilot Program”, allowing for three out of four types of ADUs – converted detached accessory structures*, a basement apartment, or a small home expansion.

    • Detached Accessory Dwelling Units will only be permitted in detached structures which were constructed prior to October 31st, 2021; or there was a building permit issued before that same date.

  • Only single-family detached residences would be eligible to create ADUs

  • Property owners building an ADU would be required to meet with Planning before building a new ADU to review design recommendations, regulations, and deed restrictions.

  • Only one ADU could be constructed per lot, and it must be under 800 sqft. in size, unless it is in a basement.

  • The owner of the property must live in either the primary structure or the accessory unit.

  • Maximum of 2 persons and any children related to them would be allowed to live in an ADU.

  • The ADU could be used as a long-term rental property by default. But if the owner wanted to use it as a short-term rental (like an Airbnb), they would have to apply for a conditional use permit from the Board of Adjustment, which must consider if there would be an adverse impact on the neighborhood surrounding it.

  • Anyone that purchases a property that has a legally-allowed ADU would be notified of the restrictions on ADUs by LFUCG upon purchase. There would be mechanism for removing the restrictions of ADUs in that context, if requested.

  • The program will be revisited in one year for evaluation and possible alterations.

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