ADUs and Density in Missoula

In a very telling opinion in today’s Missoulian, former city council member John Torma explains what all the fuss is about with ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units). Quite correctly, he boils it down to density:

Modest increases in … I’m going to use the “D” word now … density in our urban core neighborhoods will reap significant benefits in the area of transportation, i.e. miles not traveled, air not fouled, and vehicles not needed. As a historical housing type in our urban core neighborhoods, ADUs can bring a modest increase in density without significantly changing the character of our neighborhoods.

I am not a fan of ADUs. But, I do agree with greater density in inner neighborhoods. What ADUs do is force us to get density right. All the things people dislike about ADUs must be solved before we will support greater density.

My biggest gripe with ADUs (please don’t call them granny flats – she’ll die and we’ll be stuck with the consequences) is that they don’t meet the underlying zoning requirements. Often they are built right up to the rear alley. ADUs get built over the top of existing (and non-conforming) garages. They shade out the neighbors, block clear air circulation and choke out the view.

ADUs create more vehicles without the necessity of having to provide on-site parking. That means we’ll all soon be fighting for a parking spot outside our home. Your typical inner neighborhood home only has on-street parking for one or two vehicles. But, if you put your children, your parents, or a bunch of rent-paying college students into the ADU then you should have to provide the extra parking on your property. I know those paved lots are going to mess up your native grassland, but that just should be part of the deal.

ADUs should be required to be accessed from the front of the property. Our alleys weren’t designed to be streets, particularly since emergency vehicles don’t have a hope in heck in navigating most of them. Heaven help the fire-fighters trying to rescue your cat from a burning ADU. Moreover, alleys don’t have sidewalks and are quite unsafe for walking and playing. There aren’t enough lights, there’s no plowing, and folks don’t shovel the snow back there. More cars in alleys will mean more ice slicks in winter, more dust in summer, more vehicle exhaust, more accidents, and more vibration felt in neighboring homes. That’s not healthy.

But, these aren’t problems with ADUs alone. They are problems with greater density in general. If the City Council is going to approve these zoning changes in our neighborhoods then they should provide answers as to how they are going to protect everyone’s health and safety. And not just the elderly or other folks who are supposed to be benefiting from ADUs.

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One Response

  1. […] I am honored that Ryan reads and comments on this blog. And, since I am not all that enthused about ADUs, perhaps I can give Morton some pointers on these Accessory Dwelling Units, or ‘granny […]

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