The Takoma Park City Council this week declared its opposition to a Montgomery County bill that would allow "accessory apartments" in houses, citing the county's failure to stop illegal units from innundating their city.
Council members said they believed that legalizing so-called "granny flats"--even under the bill's numerous restrictions--would make regulation confusing and provide a cover for many more illegal units to spring forth.
Council member Carl Iddings, who represents the city on a county task force on affordable housing, said "In theory, accessory housing is okay. In practice, we have had a history of abuses, particularly in the area of county zoning enforcement. Therefore, we don't think the county should pass the law."
Should the county decide to legalize accessory apartments, Iddings said, city officials would ask that Takoma Park be off-limits to conversions.
The council's stand came by way of a resolution backing Idding's position, which he said he intends to deliver to the County Council at a public hearing on the bill Tuesday night.
Rosalie Silverberg, who headed the task force recommending legalization of accessory units under strict conditions, said legalization under tight controls "would help, rather than hinder Takoma Park, because any existing accessory apartments would have to conform to the conditions of the legislation."
But she added, "If Takoma Park wishes to oppose this, I can understand. They have had a lot of problems in Takoma Park."
Housing task force members recommended in a report last month that the county council legalize accessory apartments in detached, single-family houses as a way to provide cheaper housing for low-income families, elderly people and young adults in Montgomery. It also would provide elderly home owners with the possibility of cheap maintenance arrangements and a source of income that could make the difference between keeping and having to abandon their houses, proponents said.
The committee's majority said restrictions in the law would help prevent the problems some have attributed to apartment conversions.
Under the proposed bill, individual applicants would have to get permits and licenses, and special permission from the county Board of Appeals to set up a flat. They would be limited to one unit in each house, and would be required to meet housing codes, provide a kitchen, bathroom and separate entrance.