OWATONNA — After a lengthy discussion regarding the increase in popularity for multi-generational housing needs, the Owatonna City Council approved the ordinance that will allow accessory dwelling units to be constructed within a single family zoning district.

“The requests are so a family member could live [in the accessory unit] and have a separate living space within the house,” explained Greg Kruschke, the community development specialist, during a July work study session.

The ordinance defines an accessory dwelling unit as a subordinate dwelling unit incorporated within a single family structure. It further states that an accessory unit may not be subdivided or otherwise segregated in ownership from the primary residence and that detached accessory dwelling units are not permitted. The planning commission felt that a detached unit does not fit with the character of a single family neighborhood and shared concern about the differences in setbacks between living space and accessory buildings.

The ordinance lays out several provisions by which an accessory dwelling unit would have to meet. The unit must have a minimum of 300 square feet and shall be limited to a maximum square footage of 30% of the primary dwelling unit’s total square footage. Both units are to share a mailbox and mailing address and the entire structure is to have the appearance of a single family residence from the street, including having only one front door.

These provisions were put in place largely to prevent the accessory units from being turned into rentals, essentially creating a duplex in a single family zoning district. Other requirements include both units sharing a sanitary sewer service, water service and meter, electric service and meter, and gas service and meter. The city is also requiring that the owner of the structure submit a letter to the city planner annually stating that one of the units is owner occupied.

Structures with accessory dwelling units will be registered with the city’s rental registration program and inspected on a biennial basis or as the program requires.

The discussion was originally brought to the attention of the city council as a solution to affordable housing and addressing the community’s aging population. Having multi-generational families living together has a long history in the United States, dating back to World War II. The rise in both health and wealth for people 65 and older led to a decline over several decades, but Pew data shows that multi-generational living has been slowly on the rise.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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