Letter: No need to revise approval process for accessory dwelling units



Mayor Jim Brainard directed that this proposed ordinance be drafted to provide affordable housing in Carmel. The city council should vote not to approve it on grounds that it is overly complicated, fails to accomplish its purported objective and is unfair.

The proposed ordinance is overly complicated

During its meeting on Nov. 5, the members of the Carmel Plan Commission’s residential committee struggled to understand, and the city’s representatives failed to exhibit a firm grasp of the basics and the ramifications of the proposed ordinance. These tortured discussions revealed the proposed ordinance to be a hydra — the solution of each problem created two more. It is not clear why the proposed ordinance is needed. The city has not presented any data indicating that the existing process for obtaining approval for the construction of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) does not work or is overly burdensome.

The proposed ordinance does not accomplish its purported objective

The city’s own representative put the lie to the purported affordable housing objective during the meeting of the residential committee. When discussing a provision of the proposed ordinance, since deleted, that banned the use of an ADU as an Airbnb, the city’s representative stated, in a cavalier manner, “why do we care” if an ADU is used as an Airbnb. We should all care. The construction of dwellings in residential neighborhoods for use as an Airbnb is the antithesis of affordable housing.

The proposed ordinance is unfair to individual homeowners

The proposed ordinance required builders of new residential subdivisions to build a minimum number of ADUs. The developers pushed back, and the city rolled over. This provision was deleted by the residential committee out of concern it was “unfair” to builders. The deletion of this provision was fully endorsed and insisted upon by city councilor Kevin Rider at the meeting of the plan commission on Nov. 17. The removal of this provision allows Old Town Development and others of its ilk to continue unabated, further exacerbating the shortage of new affordable housing in the city. The city instead seeks to achieve its desired affordable housing through the construction of ADUs in existing residential neighborhoods where such construction is not barred by an HOA or covenants. Unprotected homeowners may end up living next door or close to short-term rentals which were not permitted by the applicable zoning regulations when they purchased their homes.

Additionally, once the aging occupant(s) no longer reside(s) in the ADU, it will most probably convert to a rental property, increasing the density of a neighborhood previously zoned for single-family homes, with attendant increases in traffic and noise. While unprotected homeowners can seek to have the BZA deny special use approval for the construction of an ADU, this process does not inspire confidence; it relies on the same entity that approved the construction and operation of the GOAT, apparently unaware it was in an area zoned residential.

Joe H. Vaughn, Carmel