Weber County should reassess zoning changes

Saturday , July 12, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Bill Siegel

Weber County has implemented changes to Sec 108 of the County Code for Unincorporated Weber County effectively voiding any current single-family subdivision that has been platted and recorded. The Change for Subdivisions in A-1 and A-3 zoning of unincorporated Weber County allow as a permitted use, accessory apartments as large as 25 percent of gross livable floor area of a currently built home.

Subdivisions are recorded after being approved for the number of homes desired by the developer, reviewed by the planning staff, discussed and recommended for approval by the planning commissions with changes usually made to the number of homes allowed applying “bonus” densities for open space and smenities in the planned subdivision and finally approved by the county commissioners.

Current zoning allows for a “mother-in-law” apartment and no one would argue with such an arrangement. However Weber County has decided to allow accessory apartments as a conditional use in unincorporated Weber County subdivisions as a tool for addressing a need for moderate-income housing. Little if any consideration has been given to the fact that these developments were planned and built as single-family housing attracting the owners who have purchased into these subdivisions, having done so with the expectation they zoned in a single-family subdivision at that time.

Weber County should address the moderate-income housing need in another manner. If a developer can plan for and make a development viable for moderate-income housing, whether in an apartment or lower-cost multiple family housing format, that effort should be pursued. But a fix for this issue; the market should determine the course of action and not have it be foisted upon owners in single-family subdivisions to live with the intrusion.

By adding this conditional use to any A-1/A-3 subdivision that may have in place an active Home Owners Association and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions with specific language prohibiting dwellings from being occupied by anyone other than owners and family or rented to a single family user are trampled by this change.

Weber County concerns for addressing the moderate-income housing issue are admirable; however the downsides to any subdivision are easily seen by the owners. Will the homeowner who has been granted the conditional-use permit, ensure increased insurance coverage for the accessory apartment, assuming liabilities that could occur, including damage or loss to adjacent properties because of actions of the renter? This was not a consideration as a condition of approval by Weber County in its actions here. This is a concern of the owners in the affected subdivision.

Will the HOA members be held liable if a renter is injured on privately owned HOA common area property? Should the HOA be forced to amend the CC&Rs to include an increase of liability coverage for the HOA (now required under state HOA law changes) or make changes to the CC&Rs specifically barring an accessory apartment occupant from using owners association common area property in any way since the renter is not guest nor relative of the property owner, but a paying occupant of the rental apartment only.

With an occupant having no vested interest in maintaining fences, weed control or other common area needs, this would seem a fair solution.

Any subdivision is the sum of all its parts concerning overall home values. A home having an accessory apartment may cause any adjacent properties to suffer a loss of value. If so, this loss of value will become demonstrable and quantifiable, therefore recompense of that loss could be pursued. If the HOA determines the loss is sufficient enough to impact the subdivision as a whole, any actions if taken could be for recovery of a considerable amount.

Accessory apartments may be viable for other A-1/A-3 zoned home sites not built in recorded subdivisions and this would not cause a detrimental impact to home owners who have made a sizable investment in a single-family subdivision.

Weber County should reassess the change allowing as a conditional-use accessory apartments in A-1/A-3 zoning for existing subdivisions and apply the conditional use only to homes not part of any existing or planned single-family subdivision in the unincorporated areas of Weber County.

Bill Siegel is an Eden resident and former Ogden Valley Planning commissioner.

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