By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published March 16, 2022
Rural landowners may be able to build second houses on their properties soon
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Rural landowners will soon be able to build a second, smaller house anywhere on their property by a vote of the County Council last week.
The council removed a condition that a secondary house must be built within 100 feet of the main house.
It also now allows people living on property sized under five acres to build secondary houses.
Instead of a 100-foot tether, the standard setbacks from the road would be the rule of thumb for placing a second house.
Supporters say this freedom to build will help create more affordable housing in the county, and can be the way multiple generations can live together in separate houses on their family’s property.
Councilman Nate Nehring echoed these benefits. “My favorite part is this was community-driven,” Nehring said, as people on small lots petitioned the county on it.
The vote further loosens the rules on development in rural land. One goal behind it is to encourage affordable housing in low-density areas.
Last summer, the council significantly lightened the requirements for building a secondary dwelling on a property. Those rules let people more easily attach a living space to their existing house or build a second house.
Many residents asked to remove the 100-foot requirement for placing the separate house; last week’s vote came after it went through planning-level studies.
Letting houses be placed further away from each other by removing the 100-foot rule will retain rural character, resident Glen Blankenship told the council at a public hearing last week.
In formal language, an add-on is called an “accessory dwelling unit.” A separate house is a “detached accessory dwelling unit.”
Lots under 5 acres in size are called “substandard lots,” and date to before land sizes were more uniform.
The change should come into effect in the coming weeks pending County Executive Dave Somers’ signature to approve.
A land planner writing for The Urbanist, an anti-sprawl Puget Sound blog, pointed out that the new Detached ADU law could be manipulated to put two large rental houses on one plot of land without taking the usual step of subdividing the land into two plots.
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