Raleigh Planning Board Mutinies Against Granny Flat Restrictions

Some members of the city’s planning board say the Raleigh City Council is ramming through rules for backyard cottages and granny flats that are so “overly complex” few people will ever build them.

Several Planning Commission members feel their hands were tied after the council instructed them not to consider alternatives to proposed rules for accessory dwelling units, also known as backyard cottages and granny flats.

The advisory commission debated the proposed rules last week before deciding to send them to a committee for more discussion.

“My personal philosophy is when we review these things we should give our honest assessment about whether we think what’s in front of us is workable, good and addresses the issues at hand,” Commissioner Eric Braun said. “Not because it’s been around a long time and not because that’s all we think council will adopt, because that is not our role.” ...

Backyard cottages are normally small, standalone rooms in a person’s backyard for guests or family to stay or rented out for extra income. They can also be rooms built over a garage or in basements. They are currently illegal to build though several can be found within Raleigh.

Supporters see them as an easy way to add affording housing in established neighborhoods. ...

Raleigh leaders have debated rules for backyard cottages for more than five years. This summer, the council’s Growth and Natural Resources Committee settled on rules that would require getting the surrounding neighbors’ blessing through a special district of at least 10 acres.

The Growth and Natural Resources Committee sent a memo to city staff and the Planning Commission listing what should be included in the rules. It included an overlay district and size, lighting, parking and use criteria.

It’s that memo, along with other information from staff, that left commission members feeling like they couldn’t suggest alternatives. The Growth and Natural Resources committee has five council members, which makes up a majority of the eight-person Raleigh City Council. ...

During a Growth and Natural Resources Committee meeting last summer, several people gave their opinions about the proposed regulations.

Tom Anhut, a long-time supporter of backyard cottages, said the fears people have about them haven’t come true in other cities.

“Why do we think we are special and different and will have these problems when they don’t,” he asked. ...
— Anna Johnson - N&O
Brent Woodcox