ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS—Additional thoughts for Nov. 13 FCNC meeting

November 6, 2023

Dear Neighbors,

The Lexington Planning Commission recently passed an Amendment to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance for Lexington in a split vote and largely removed the protections for neighborhoods provided by the original ordinance.  The ordinance now will go to the Urban County Council for consideration.  Some of the changes are as follows:

1.  Owners of ADUs will no longer have to live on the same lot.  This is especially concerning when the ADU is part of a Short-Term Rental.  We believe that encouraging short-term rentals is bad policy when we have a serious housing shortage and a lack of affordable housing.  Having owners present limits nuisance issues like noise, lighting, and parties.  ADUs are limited in size and occupancy but when added to a short-term rental for tourists are a particular problem.

2.  Currently ADUs in backyards have to be in buildings that existed prior to the passage of the original ADU ordinance almost 2 years ago.  The new ordinance would allow new ADUs in backyards, built within 18 inches of the property line in many cases and with the same height as allowed for a zone’s principal structure.  That’s simply too high and too close depending on the neighborhood.  A ZOTA impacts all neighborhoods, and neighborhoods are not all alike.  They are inappropriate in this instance.

3.  FCNC recommends that an STR with an ADU be limited to one rental contract per location.  Not having that limitation in place will increase the impossibility of enforcement.

4.  “New construction” in the proposed ordinance can be “modular” or “manufactured” if on a “permanent” foundation.  Some companies are pitching mobile homes on concrete without wheels that can meet building code.  Limits should be placed on the use of modular or manufactured homes in terms of context and design.

5.  An ADU as a commercial STR use for tourists should never be an accessory use like a garage.

6.  Planning staff requires pre-application meetings with applicants for ADUs but not for STRs.  Such meetings should include neighborhood representatives in order to iron out disagreements prior to the submission of an application for an ADU.  Pre-applications meetings should also be a requirement for new STRs.  The pre-application process for an STR in Louisville takes approximately six (6) months.

7.  The ADU ordinance includes a section on Accessory Living Quarters (ALQs).  An ALQ is very much like an ADU except that it includes a second full kitchen and full living quarters in R-1 zones without having to comply with ADU requirements.  ALQs are prohibited from becoming rentals and have been very popular.  ALQs in the opinion of FCNC have eliminated the need for ADUs for the elderly, family, caregivers, and people with disabilities.

At the same time, university neighborhoods have not had positive experiences with student rentals.  In the interest of better enforcement, the Division of Planning should be required to keep records of ALQ approvals to avoid the same mistakes made with short-term rental properties.

8.  Neighborhoods consistently have asked that only owners should be considered “hosts,” as does Louisville.  Requiring that “hosts” be owners is legal in Kentucky and encourages neighborhoods to support the expansion of rental properties in neighborhoods.

Someone made a comment over the course of the planning process to the effect that Short-Term Rentals are almost unregulated, so we ought to do the same thing with ADUs.  That’s just the world we live in.  The ADU ordinance next goes to the Urban County Council, so it’s important to talk with your Council Members if you want changes in the ADU ordinance before passage.

Again, please REMEMBER our meeting scheduled for Monday evening, November 13 starting at 6:30 at Tates Creek Christian Church, 3150 Tates Creek Road.  We will discuss Short-Term Rentals and Accessory Dwelling Units.


Walt Gaffield, President

Fayette County Neighborhood Council, Inc.