Council moves to restore proposed ADU boundary

After several months of debate, during Tuesday’s work session the Salt Lake City Council decided that the affluent Avenues and East Bench neighborhoods should be exempt from a proposed citywide Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) ordinance.  In exchange for reinstating the boundary originally suggested by the Salt Lake City Planning Division, council members agreed to remove the proposed yearly cap on ADUs.

ADUs refer to smaller secondary residential structures, like basement apartments, above garge units, and tiny or cottage homes in low and mid-density residential neighborhoods. If formally adopted by the council, ADUs would be allowed everywhere south of South Temple and west of Canyon Road and west of 1300 East to Interstate 80.  Additionally, there would be no limit to how many ADUs can be built for at least the next three years.  Tuesday’s straw poll undoes a September straw poll vote in which the council elected to remove the boundaries proposed by the planning division.  In that vote, both Council Members Derek Kitchen and Andrew Johnston had elected to remove the boundary but changed their vote Tuesday.

“I don’t want this to have to go back to the planning commission and I don’t want to have to start over with new boundaries,” said Kitchen.

Council Member James Rogers suggested that the council remove the boundary, revisit the ADU ordinance after 50 ADUs are built and allow for ADUs in local historic districts as long as they are inside of the historic home.

“I think the removal of the cap is important,” said Kitchen.  “I think we need to give this policy every opportunity to be successful in this short time period that we are giving it.”

Council members split Kitchen’s request into three straw polls with Council Member Erin Mendenhall and Rogers voting against removing the boundary.  Rogers was the sole dissenting vote in removing the cap.  Council members unanimously voted to revisit the ordinance after three years.

“We are putting this so far out that there is a good chance that the majority of us won’t be here and I think that it is this important that we reexamine this as a body whoever we are in three years,” said Mendenhall.

While the council body, in general, wasn’t interested in Roger’s suggestions on keeping the boundary and revisiting the ordinance after 50 ADUs, the body voted unanimously to allow ADUs in local historic districts as long as they are integrated into the main dwelling and not an external structure.

Council members also discussed sunsetting the ordinance, meaning that it would expire after three years but staff reminded the council that sunsetting the ordinance after three years would mean that staff would begin revisiting the ordinance after the first 18 months.  Planning staff also warned that sunsetting the ordinance would make previously approved ADUs nonconforming structures until a new ordinance is adopted.  The council will consider sunsetting the ordinance and implementing design standards at a future work session.

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