City council updates Oak Harbor’s accessory dwelling ordinance

In an effort to address affordable housing concerns, the Oak Harbor City Council updated the city’s accessory dwelling unit ordinance Tuesday. The ADU update implements one major and some minor “housekeeping” changes that were recommended by the Affordable Housing Task Force.

Only three ADUs, which are self-contained residential units that share a lot with a single-family home, have been permitted and built in Oak Harbor since 2004.

The task force recommended that the city eliminate its requirements for parking, that the owner live on-site and the covenant from its code to promote the development of the units. After a public survey and overview from the city planning commission, staff recommended the council maintain all those requirements.

Results of a survey, which had 97 respondents, showed the majority of people favored maintaining the requirements, however, 89 percent were not aware ADUs were allowed in the city already.

Comments in the survey reflected a desire to maintain “single-family character of neighborhoods,” but also a desire for flexibility and a feeling that there are already too many rules and regulations.

Councilwoman Tara Hizon moved to amend the recommendation to eliminate the requirement for the property owner to live on-site. She said it seemed to come out of a concern that renters would be “bad neighbors.”

“To me, that’s an opinion that’s born of a lot of assumptions and perceptions … and those concerns are not rooted in reality,” Hizon said.

She particularly took issue with the comments related to “single family character of a neighborhood,” she said. “Comments like that just make my skin crawl, to be perfectly honest.”

Her motion to remove the requirement passed four to three, with Mayor Bob Severns casting a tie-breaker vote in favor.

Councilmen Rick Almberg and James Woessner expressed support for reducing more of the restrictions, as recommended by the task force.

“I just urge the council to think of the whole reason these changes were brought before you and the whole reason this ordinance was looked at,” Woessner said. “… It could affect the lives of several families a year.”

The council passed the ordinance with no other amendments, and members Joel Servatius and Bill Larsen voted against it. Councilwoman Erica Wasinger was not present.

Larsen said he would have supported an amendment to remove the covenant requirement, but thought the presence of the property owner is “essential to maintaining what the respondents have said that they want in our community and the way I believe our single-family neighborhoods ought to be maintained.”

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