Monday night the Missoula City Council could get an ear full at a public meeting to discuss accessory dwelling units, also known as backyard houses or granny flats.
Saturday afternoon NBC Montana met with Missoula resident and ADU owner Linda Smith in the University District.
Smith gave us a tour of her 600-square-foot attached ADU and explained the amount of work that went into designing the ADU to perfectly match her house.
She tells us her house was built in 1912 so she says she’s proud you can’t tell where the house begins and her ADU starts.
Smith says that renting one of the two units is the only way she can afford to stay in the house she's lived in for nearly 40 years.
“I would have to sell my house and move,” says Smith “In these times it's even hard to sell your house.”
Smith says adding an ADU was a big investment and with the number of requirements ADU owners are held to, she tells us the process took well over a year.
“The restrictions are enough,” says Smith. “They don't need to make more to make them impossible.”
As the ordinance stands: ADU’s can't be larger than 600 square feet, either the main house or the ADU has to be owner occupied, off-street parking is also required and the ADU has to match the house including paint color and roof tilt.
“It creates so much uncertainty to all the single family neighborhoods in Missoula,” said former Missoula City Councilmember Ken Lousen.
Lousen says ADU’s would increase traffic and limit open space.
“What they are buying into and living in is always going to be in jeopardy of a proposed ADU going in literally maybe in their next door neighbor’s yard or their back yard,” says Lousen.
Lousen wants ADU's, like smith's, approved on a case-by-case basis.
“Otherwise they're just, in a sense, opening up all single family neighborhoods to be gutted and to have their zoning uncertain,” says Lousen.
But Smith argues most folks can't even tell where her ADU stops and her home begins.
“If a neighbor puts a very small addition on their house it doesn't really impact the neighborhood because of the set-backs and what's necessary to meet the requirements,” said Smith. “I don't see what the problem is because I think it's helping solve some of Missoula's affordable housing problems.”
Smith says it's the only way she can stay in her home.
“I really value my neighborhood,” says Smith. “I wouldn't want to do anything to negatively impact my neighborhood.”
City council members urge anyone with an opinion on ADU’s to show up at Monday night’s meeting, which takes place at 7:00 pm in the city council chambers – 140 W Pine Street, next to Sean Kelly’s.
For additional information about ADU’s click here.