Study On New Rules For Guest Houses Launched

Can Granny Flats provide affordable housing?

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At first blush, it seemed a simple enough question.

Should Payson have special zoning rules when it comes to guest quarters into which some homeowner might want to tuck the stray renter, ailing mother or boomeranging twenty-something?

The Payson Planning Commission considered the issue during a lively discussion in January and suggested town planners take a look at the regulations and suggest any tidying up.

Turns out, it's not such a simple question, town planners reported back on March 10.

Planners said the growing demand for rented-out guest houses, lofts, converted garages, upstairs rooms and add-ons falls somewhere between a subversion of zoning laws and desperately needed affordable housing.

"This has just exploded as a subject," said Planning Commission Chairman Hal Bass.

"It can have a tremendous impact on our community," agreed Commissioner Russell Goddard.

The current zoning code does allow guest quarters for non-paying guests, but doesn't allow them to be rented out. It requires a special conditional use permit to even include a kitchen in such attached or detached guest houses.

But as staffers pondered changes, potential issues sprouted like nightshade mushrooms.

Should the town allow detached units with kitchens in certain zoning districts within the town?

Would such rental units help ease the town's chronic shortage of apartments and housing for people making less than about $60,000 a year?

How should such units count against impact fees, the need for parks and things like the town's $7,500 water hookup fee or the sanitary district's $5,300 sewage hookup charge?

What would happen if a change in this allowed use conflicted with a ban on such units imposed by a homeowners' association?

Would such units provide a major new source of housing for low-income seniors?

How should existing, technically illegal such rental units be brought into compliance with a new ordinance?

"The lively discussion has highlighted the fact that this issue is much more complicated and intriguing than initially meets the eye," concluded Zoning Administrator Ray Erlandsen in a report to the commission.

Erlandsen then recommended that the commission set up a study group that would include two commissioners and representatives from a variety of organizations, like homeowners' associations, utility companies, senior citizens and veterans groups and the Department of Economic Security.

That group would hash out the issues starting on April 1, with the goal of submitting a proposed new ordinance to the commission in May. That could lead to new rules that could take effect in August, Erlandsen concluded.

"Certainly, this is something that affects the whole town. We have all kinds of family members that may want to live with us in the future," said Commissioner Gary Bedsworth.

"It'll change the densities," said Commissioner Jere Jarrell, in reference to the number of housing units allowed per acre -- one of the most contentious and fundamental elements of the zoning code.

Erlandsen said the change won't allow more single family dwellings per acre, although it might increase the number of households.

With that, the commission directed town staff to set up the committee and start immediately on drawing up the new rules for guest quarters.

Anyone interested in participating in the study group can contact Erlandsen at the Community Development Department, 474-5242, ext. 264.

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