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Provo Municipal Council required to find more space for accessory dwelling units

By Genelle Pugmire - | Sep 21, 2021

Courtesy Utah Valley Homebuilders Association

One of the 21 homes featured in the 2020 Utah Valley Parade of Homes is shown on July 10, 2020. Homes in Utah are bigger than the national average, and, according to one report, homes in Provo/Orem are No. 1 in the nation in average size for mid-size metro markets. (Courtesy Utah Valley Homebuilders Association)

During the 2021 legislative session, the Utah State Legislature passed House Bill 82 addressing Accessory Dwelling Units. Now Provo’s Municipal Council must determine how is will comply with that bill.

During Tuesday’s work session, city staff presented the conundrum to the council. According to Provo’s policy analyst John Magness, staff has been working on this issue for the past five months.

By way of definition, an accessory dwelling unit is inside a single family unit dwelling that’s detached. It is owner occupied. It is for long-term rentals and must be in the same footprint as the existing dwelling. Most often these are basement apartments. They have separate kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces.

The problem is the Legislature, through HB 82, now requires cities with a university of more than 10,000 students to have 33% of their acreage available for ADUs. Provo has allowed for 20% which is mostly in the neighborhoods surrounding Brigham Young University.

The Council and staff are figuring out where the other 13% — amounting to about 1,000 acres — of accessory dwellings are going be permitted.

Even more confusing is that an internal accessory dwelling is a permitted use in every city zone — except where it isn’t.

“ADUs are permitted in R-1 zones with an A or S overlay, near BYU,” said Robert Mills, planning supervisor.

They are also allowed in the A-1 agricultural zone or in RA – residential agriculture zones, but Provo doesn’t have an RA zone.

Mills asked the Council, “would you like ADUs across the city or just be compliant?”

Staff gave some solutions for the council to discuss. For instance, if allowed in an R1-6 zone, Provo has 242 acres not already zoned for accessory apartments that could be used. But this is still not close to the 1,000 acres.

Staff has left it in the hands of the council to see how they want to proceed.

While HB 82 takes away some say from the cities, it also makes the city codes stronger and more enforceable. For instance, rentals will need to be licensed, off street parking will need to be provided for each car attached to the home and liens could now be placed on homes that are not compliant.

There are a handful of other code requirements but licensing and parking are two of the bigger issues.

“HB 82 is at odds with parts of the current code,” Magness said. He noted the legal department was looking at the ins and outs of the bill.

“We want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we come in with complaints,” Mills added.

It was suggested that neighborhoods or at least neighborhood chairmen weigh in on the matter.

Councilman David Shipley said he felt it could be problematic to get a neighborhood’s input.

Some on the council felt by doing so, neighbors would say no to ADUs in their neighborhoods when the council asked; responses along the lines of “not in my backyard.”

“HB 82 reshaped how I look at this issue,” said Councilman David Harding. “Previously, ADU’s were not permitted in Provo. This bill allows them everywhere. It’s flipped on its head.”

Harding added that before they were looking at, “where does it make sense to have ADUs.” Now it’s “where it doesn’t make sense.”

“I would have preferred from the state more conditions on where is appropriate,” Harding said.

For now, it appears the council, legal staff and planning staff will have to put their thinking caps on and come up with a viable solution for Provo. Then they can adjust the city code to fit the bill.


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