Council CTTE to discuss ADUs Tues Aug 10 1 pm – Contact CMs

August 8, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

Coming now before Lexington’s Urban County Council is a citywide zoning change to allow “Accessory Dwelling Units” (ADUs) or second dwellings on all single-family lots, ZOTA 2019-5. This Tuesday, August 10 at 1 pm in Council Chambers, the Council Planning and Public Safety Committee will hear an Implementation Update on ADUs and other zoning changes in progress as recommended by the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. You are encouraged to contact your Council members and take part in the meeting. Since this agenda is crowded, we expect more ADU public input dates to come.

After long study and discussion, the Fayette County Neighborhood Council voted July 12 in a general membership meeting to oppose the ordinance as recommended by the Planning Commission on October 21, 2019. We all share the high aims of this ordinance: increasing opportunity for affordable housing to meet a wide spectrum of needs in our community, especially those of seniors, people with disabilities and extended families. We have little confidence, however, in the outcome it promises: a gradual and widely scattered increase in small-scale housing at moderate rates. We believe Lexington stands to lose far more than it gains if the Council adopts this ordinance as proposed.

Do you want ADUs for your neighborhood? FCNC asks for your help and involvement as the Council reviews the ordinance before making a final decision. Please contact us at to volunteer. We’ll need people to speak, write, and organize supporters to communicate the concerns of our diverse neighborhoods to Lexington and the Urban County Council. Here are some starting points, with links:

  • Contact your LFUCG At-Large and District Councilmembers (click on the map to find them) by e-mail, phone or LexCall 311 app.
  • Submit a Herald Leader letter to the editor (200 words) or column (650 words).
  • Post on NextDoor, Facebook, your community blogs or newsletters and other social media.

ORDINANCE DETAILS: The zoning change, ZOTA 2019-5, would allow any house-lot in the city to add an apartment or second, backyard house of 625-800 square feet. Owners could develop the ADU—a complete and independent second dwelling—in the space currently allowed to a house addition or garage. House-lots of any size in virtually any urban residential zone could add an ADU, including duplex and townhouse lots subdivided for single, attached residences. Changes in the ordinance, added just before the Planning Commission vote, would limit ADU occupancy to two people plus their children, and would require an owner’s permanent residence on any lot with an ADU. Find more details on our website, including Info Highlights with links to city materials, and Issues and Concerns.

At FCNC’s July meeting, the concerns and objections to the proposed ADU ordinance were as varied as our Lexington neighborhoods. The ideas that found the broadest agreement are distilled in eight points briefly stated here. These realistic safeguards and improvements are needed before an Accessory Dwelling Ordinance can be considered for Lexington. The longer version of the CHIEF POINTS, posted on our website, gives the background to explain why.

CHIEF POINTS on the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance:

1. Granny flats are here already, permitted without a public hearing. City staff can grant a permit for a complete new dwelling within the home, provided it shares access and is not separately rented. We can publicize and improve the permit process, and turn our energies at the same time toward a wider spectrum of senior housing options.

2. Enforcement comes first: institute rental licensing and inspection. The need is critical, to prevent housing loss and degradation that continues to displace long-term residents in vulnerable neighborhoods. Without this effective oversight, ADU rules like owner residence and limited occupancy are meaningless, as student rental areas show.

3. Map the ADU option only where it fits, not using a citywide ZOTA but our regular zone change process, so the community directly impacted is directly involved. Full transparency is key.

4. If the second dwelling is a truly complete and independent unit, it is not really “accessory,” or subordinate and incidental, but rather a “principal” use: it does not belong in single-family zoning. Create a flexible, less-intensive new duplex zone R-2A for this housing option.

5. Provide for balanced distribution, so ADUs don’t crowd in the older, affordable neighborhoods where student and tourist demand drives rents high. Surely private deed restrictions, at high cost, are not the equitable solution for regulating ADU distribution. Set a spacing requirement for ADUs to spread them across the urban area.

6. Set ADU zoning standards to apply flexibly, through a conditional use permit with local input. Require public review to safeguard community welfare and compatibility: street safety and parking; flooding and sewers; tree canopy and privacy; lot size, setbacks and buildable area or F.A.R.; and spacing between ADU properties.

7. Do not allow an ADU in a structure that does not meet current zoning standards. A backyard cottage is far more intensive than a garage or storage shed: the enlarged use in a substandard structure should not be legal.

8. ADU developers should pay their fair share of taxes and infrastructure fees, to ensure adequate public facilities and services for all. ADU owners are establishing an independent dwelling unit that may prove a source of significant income.

Bottom line, FCNC sees a real disconnect between the high aims and the likely outcomes of the ADU ordinance now before Council. I look forward to our working together to do better. If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Walt Gaffield
President, Fayette County Neighborhood Council