Accessory dwellings highlight city code updates

Contract for Wayzata Boulevard Corridor Study approved

Small backyard homes, basement dwellings and above-garage living units have been the hot topic of discussion during the city’s drafting of Ordinance 811 over the last year.

The ordinance, which had its first reading during Tuesday’s council meeting, makes amendments to ordinances for residential, commercial and institutional zoning districts. Eleven districts in total are affected by the changes, which are meant to bring city code into alignment with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

“Ultimately we want our zoning code to work for us, but also be usable for developers and property owners,” said Emily Goellner, Community Development Director.

The proposed update brought about several significant changes to the code. It creates a “New Use Table” which allows staff, developers and property owners to easily see what is allowable or allowed by permit in each district. It eliminates overly specific uses which differentiated jewelry stores, locksmiths and taxidermists for example, and considers them under general retail. It reins in the language of the R-5 district, which was called “out of whack” with the comprehensive plan compared to other districts. It also addresses guidelines for Accessory Dwelling Units.

According to the proposal, ADUs must always be smaller than the main unit on the property. To have an ADU, the lot area must be 11,000-square-feet or larger in the R-3 and R-3A districts if it is detached from the primary home structure. A detached ADU is limited to two stories or 25 feet in height. The owner of the property is required to live in one of the units on site.

“The idea behind allowing them was to consider ways to increase housing diversity in our community,” said Valerie Quarles, Assistant City Planner. “We can account for more people wanting to live alone — live intergenerationally — stay living on their properties longer than their two-story home would allow them to.”

The setback requirement for accessory buildings, such as a garage calls for 5-feet in the front and rear yard. Councilwoman Cathy Iverson questioned whether that was too small for a unit which would have people living in it. After a short discussion between the council and staff, a caveat was added that a 5-foot setback is allowed for structures in existence before the date the ordinance goes into effect. It will go into effect when it is published in the Sun Sailor. After that, new ADU structures will require a 10-foot setback.

Councilman Jeff Buchanan raised concern over an increase in short-term rental units such as AirBNBs taking the “charm” away from the community. According to Goellner, there are about a dozen short-term rentals spread around town.

There was one letter from the public submitted on this item and included in the agenda packet. The author of the letter was looking into converting their basement into an ADU. They were concerned about the ADU size cap, which is set at 960-square-feet and no more than 33-percent of the residence’s living space. They felt this size cap would limit their ability to implement an ADU, even though 960-square-feet is far less than 33-percent of their existing home.

“If you have a 1,200-square-foot home and want to convert a 1,200-square-foot basement, in my opinion I don’t see how that differs from a duplex,” Quarles said. “I would be more comfortable with a variance if it were to go above that ADU cap.”

Finally, the amended zoning ordinance creates a new district, District C-3A, which encompasses the Wayzata Blvd corridor. The new district allows for a taller building height up to three stories. No properties are being rezoned at this time, but this allows developers to rezone properties to the C-3A district while a study on the corridor is still underway.

If a developer did want to construct a three-story building, they would need to rezone their property which requires council approval. 

The council unanimously approved the adoption of the resolution and first reading of the zoning ordinance amendment.

Wayzata Boulevard Corridor Study

The next item on the agenda was approving a services agreement with SRF Consulting, based in Minneapolis, for the Wayzata Boulevard Corridor Study. The services agreement is not to exceed $74,984.25. The 2022 Capital Improvement Plan budgets $128,800 for the corridor study. The remaining budget will be allocated to an agreement with city architect Van Meter Williams Pollack.

The study will consider Wayzata Blvd in four sections: Highway 12 to N. Minnetonka Ave; N. Minnetonka Ave to Superior Blvd; Superior Blvd to Highway 12; S. Central Ave. from Wayzata Blvd to Highway 12.

“The reason why we broke it up is because the character of each of these segments is quite different,” Goellner said. 

A team of city staff members and the architect will meet bi-weekly throughout the study. The study will include community engagement, design strategy, a roadway safety analysis, a transportation and mobility plan, and a small area land use plan.

The design portion of the study will focus on the western portion of Wayzata Blvd, which is slated for reconstruction east of N. Central Ave in the early 2030s.

SRF Consulting was involved in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan process.

“We’re just excited to be a part of this community,” said Mike McGarvey, Project Director. “We’re just happy to continue our relationship with this city.”

While councilors Alex Plechash, Molly MacDonald and Buchanan voiced their approval of the study, Iverson was not in favor.

“The main reason is I, from a philosophical standpoint, do not agree with the redevelopment of Wayzata Blvd,” she said. “As I stand today and the feedback I get from residents, I cannot support this.”

Iverson clarified that her opposition was not directed toward the contractor, but was focused particularly on redeveloping at the corner of Wayzata Blvd and N. Central Ave.

Buchanan motioned to approve the agreement, which passed by a 3-1 vote.

%d bloggers like this: