The Spanish Fork Council voted on Tuesday to approve an ordinance amending the city’s municipal code related to accessory dwelling units in order to comply with a new state law.

According to the American Planning Association, an ADU is “a smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone … single-family home.” ADUs are known by a number of different names, including secondary suites, accessory apartments and granny flats.

While ADUs and short-term rentals have typically been regulated by cities and counties, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill during this year’s general session that “prohibits municipalities and counties from establishing restrictions for certain accessory dwelling units with limited exceptions.”

House Bill 82 starts with “the premise that an accessory dwelling unit inside someone’s home … is a permitted use in all municipalities,” according to Republican Bountiful Rep. Ray Ward, the bill’s sponsor, who said one of the biggest “obstacles” to ADUs was “zoning laws which vary from city to city and county to county.”

“(H.B. 82) will make several changes to allow it to be easier to create accessory dwelling units by removing some of the obstacles that frequently stop that from happening,” Ward told his House colleagues on Feb. 18. “I think this is an important step towards efficient use of our housing stock, which is a necessary step in dealing with our housing affordability problem that we have in Utah.”

The Utah League of Cities and Towns initially opposed the legislation, said Ward, who noted that they were “neutral” to a substitute version of the bill allowing cities to set some restrictions.

Those restrictions include that cities can require that the homes be owner-occupied, require additional parking, forbid short-term rentals, and prohibit ADUs in mobile homes or on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet. Additionally, a city or county can designate up to 25% of its residential zoning to be ADU-free.

“I think this substitute is a good balance of allowing cities the flexibility that they need over local controls while still moving substantially in the direction of allowing much more availability to a homeowner to create an internal accessory dwelling unit to serve their own needs and the needs of their renter and the state’s needs of affordable housing,” Ward said.

H.B. 82, which was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, passed 64-7 in the House and 27-1 in the Senate. Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill on March 16.

During a public meeting Tuesday, the Spanish Fork City Council amended the land use section of the city’s municipal code by adding the definition of “accessory dwelling unit.”

The change defines an ADU as “a habitable living unit added to, created within, or detached from a primary single-family dwelling and continued on one lot.”

The ordinance also removes the term “accessory apartment” from the municipal code, which defined it as a “self contained dwelling incorporated within an existing owner occupied structure that is designated as a single family dwelling and does not substantially alter the structure or appearance of the existing structure.”

Dave Anderson, Spanish Fork community and economic department director, noted that the changes to municipal code were being proposed because “the state Legislature recently changed the state law relative (to a) city’s ability to regulate accessory dwelling units.”

“So these changes would bring our municipal regulations into conformity with the new state law,” he said. “And, while we’re at it, we are making some other things a little bit more clear than they were before.”

The city council unanimously approved the ordinance and did not make any comments about the changes during Tuesday’s meeting. The Spanish Fork Planning Commission reviewed the proposal on April 7 and recommended that it be approved.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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