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Pinellas considers zoning amendments for accessory dwelling units

Cora Quantum (AI)



Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash.

The Pinellas County Commission held the first of two public hearings Tuesday to discuss proposed amendments to the county’s Land Development Code regarding accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The hearing focused on updating the definitions, specific use standards and parking requirements for ADUs, with the aim of enhancing flexibility and increasing housing options.

Background on ADUs

Glen Bailey, Planning Division Manager and Interim Director of Housing and Community Development, presented the proposed amendments. Bailey explained that ADUs are smaller, independent dwelling units on the same lot as a primary single-family detached home. These units, commonly referred to as garage apartments, in-law apartments or granny flats, can be attached to the primary home or be in a separate detached building. ADUs typically include their own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area.

ADUs have been permitted in unincorporated Pinellas County for decades. A significant code update in 2019 provided increased flexibility, such as allowing the owner to occupy either the primary residence or the ADU, and permitting separate utility connections.

Proposed amendments

The current amendments aim to further enhance flexibility, clarify incentives and expand opportunities for new ADUs, contributing to more affordable housing options. Key aspects of the proposal include:

Increase in Maximum Size: The proposed amendments would increase the maximum allowable size of ADUs from 750 square feet to 1,000 square feet. However, this increase would not apply in coastal storm areas and other flood hazard zones to avoid placing more people in vulnerable areas.

Height Restrictions: The amendments stipulate that attached ADUs cannot be taller than the primary home, addressing compatibility concerns with neighboring properties.

Staff-Level Review for Variances: The proposal allows staff-level review for minor deviations (up to 20%) over the maximum size limit, reducing the need for property owners to seek variances from the Board of Adjustment and Appeals.

Owner Occupancy Requirements: For affordable housing purposes, the amendments propose waiving the requirement that the owner must occupy either the primary residence or the ADU. Instead, both units could be rented out, provided they are affordable at 80% or below the median family income and subject to a 20-year land use restrictive agreement.

Clarification of ADU Qualifications: The amendments clarify that ADUs must have a separate entrance, dedicated sleeping quarters and bathroom, and a full kitchen with a sink, cooking unit and refrigerator.

Parking Requirements: The proposal introduces a requirement for at least one off-street parking space for ADUs larger than 750 square feet. Smaller ADUs would remain exempt from parking requirements.

Waiver of Development Review Fees: The amendments propose waiving applicable development review fees for ADUs and allowing a single-family home to have a second kitchen under certain conditions, facilitating multi-generational living arrangements.

Flexibility for Multifamily Units: The amendments would allow multifamily dwelling units on a single parcel to be either detached or attached, enabling cottage-style or tiny home rental developments in multifamily zoning districts.

Discussion and next steps

During the hearing, commissioners raised questions about various aspects of the proposed amendments, including the affordability criteria, the potential impact on neighborhoods and the specific conditions under which ADUs can be rented out. The commission also discussed concerns about short-term rentals, with the amendments aiming to mitigate negative impacts by ensuring owner occupancy or affordability requirements.

The Planning Division Manager noted that the proposed amendments had been reviewed by both internal departments and external stakeholders, including the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and were found to be consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.

The second public hearing for the adoption of the proposed amendments is scheduled for July. The local planning agency has recommended approval of the amendments with a 5-1 vote.

As the county seeks to address housing affordability and flexibility, these proposed changes to the ADU regulations represent a significant step toward increasing housing options and supporting multi-generational living arrangements in Pinellas County.


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