Kalispell council still hashing out accessory dwelling parameters

·3 min read

Jun. 18—Accessory dwelling units are getting a second chance from the Kalispell City Council.

On Monday the council held a work session to revisit a possible ordinance that would allow accessory dwelling units as a permitted use in various city residential zones.

The ordinance was unexpectedly scrapped earlier in the year after three council members who voted for the proposal during its first reading withdrew their support a few weeks later.

Now the council appears poised to reconsider the ordinance, with the addition of a few amendments.

The ordinance would allow accessory units as a permitted use in Kalispell zones where duplexes already are allowed.

Council member Ryan Hunter first brought up the idea last September, primarily as a measure to improve affordable housing in the city.

But some council members worry loosening restrictions wouldn't have the intended effect.

Council members Tim Kluesner and Chad Graham both expressed skepticism that accessory units would open up more affordable housing options. They predicted the units would simply end up renting for market rates — potentially above the official affordable housing threshold of 30% of a person's monthly income, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We all know affordable housing is an issue, and that is part of this, to try to bring more affordable housing into play," Kluesner said. "This helps it, but it also hurts it at the same time."

The council couldn't agree on various requirements for accessory units, either. These included specifications for parking, setbacks, building heights and square footage maximums.

The discussion also was complicated by debate over whether to require an administrative conditional-use permit for would-be unit owners, and whether to limit the units to long-term rental status.

At this time, the council plans to revisit possible amendments at its next work session on June 28.

Then, the council likely will hold yet another work session to go over amendments that weren't previously considered. The third in the series of work sessions would probably take place on July 12.

Three people spoke in favor of increasing the accessory dwelling allowance during the work session, including one person who said he has been living in a hotel for two months because he hasn't been able to find housing.

IN OTHER business, the council revisited historic design standards for downtown Kalispell.

The set of guidelines, funded through a grant from the Montana Main Street Program, were most recently the topic of conversation at a work session on April 26.

They were brought back on Monday with the following changes, as described in the work session agenda: "allowing stained and leaded glass, clarification on the use of appropriate synthetic materials, revision to massing standards of large buildings, and various amendments to clarify language."

There wasn't much discussion of the changes Monday, although Hunter expressed his view that the government shouldn't dictate the color of a building.

Cara Lemire and Pam Carbonari, both board members of the Downtown Business Improvement District, gave their support for the historic design standards.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.

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