Council finalizes new guidelines for proposed ADU ordinance

The Salt Lake City Council will soon launch a new round of public hearings after council gave initial support for several new guidelines for the city’s proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance (ADU) through a series of straw polls.

The guidelines the council preliminarily approved on Tuesday mirror the city’s planning division’s recommendations that would establish parking, owner occupancy and footprint requirements for any proposed ADU, often referred to as granny flats or mother-in-law apartments.

Last year the council sent the proposed ADU ordinance back to city planning staff after concerns that a proposed ADU boundary exempting the Eastside and Avenues neighborhoods would not be legal.

Under the proposed parking guideline, residents that want to build an ADU must provide an off-street parking space unless their home is on a street with legal on-street parking or is within a quarter-mile from a rail station or bus stop.  In a straw poll, councilmembers voted 6 to 1 in favor of the parking guidelines with Charlie Luke providing the one dissenting vote.

Planning staff also recommended redefining how the city continues a property to be owner-occupied.  The draft ordinance required residents that want to build an ADU to live on the property or show intent to make the property their primary residence.  Under the expanded definition of owner occupant, a resident that wants to build an ADU must be the property owner or co-owner or be related to the property owner.

Luke argued that family members can also be absent landlords.   Council Chair Erin Mendenhall countered that “the way it plays out by and large is family members living with family members.”

Councilmember Fowler noted that the families aren’t always blood or legally related and proposed a straw poll to eliminate owner occupancy requirements entirely.  That straw poll failed on a 4 to 3 vote with councilmembers Fowler, Derek Kitchen and Andrew Johnston voting to remove the restriction.  Fowler proposed a second straw poll to adopt planning staff’s expanded definition.  That straw poll passed 6 to 1 again with Luke voting against it.

In another straw poll, the council voted unanimously in support of an exemption to the footprint requirements for proposed ADUs.  Under the proposed ADU ordinance, homeowners can build ADUs up to 50 percent the square footage of the main residential structure without exceeding 650 square feet.  The exemption would remove accessory buildings like sheds or detached garages from being counted against the potential square footage of the ADU, meaning that a 1,200-square-foot home could have a 600-square-foot ADU even if the property already has accessory buildings like a shed or garage.

With the guidelines the council added on Tuesday, the proposed ADU ordinance would allow ADU’s citywide but require homeowners wanting to build ADUs in the FR (Foothill Residential District) and R-1 (Single Family Residential) zoning districts to go through the conditional use process which requires approval from the planning division.  ADUs can not surpass the height of the main home and can be built up to 24 feet for homes with pitched roofs and 20 feet for homes with flat roofs.

The council will hold two public hearings scheduled for October 2 and October 16 on the proposed ADU ordinance with the newly approved guidelines.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at