Charles Dillard (City of Raleigh Urban Design Center) and Pat Young (Durham City-County Planning Department), representing “Team Planner,” faced off against “Team Developer” Trish Hanchette (Lennar Corporation) and Aaron Lubeck (The Rocket Shop) to discuss the regulatory environment and practical applications around Accessory Dwelling Units or “ADUs”. The program was moderated by Molly Stuart of Kilpatrick Townsend.
Aaron and “Team Developer” kicked off the discussion with examples of ADU projects he’s built, noting Durham has not received many privacy or noise complaints against ADU residents. He added that Trinity Park, located near Duke, has experienced a dramatic increase in property value, due in part to the advantage ADUs can provide in offsetting an owner’s mortgage. Aaron argued that Durham’s extra off-street parking requirement is an unnecessary cost to building ADUs, as are current height limitations that have unintended consequences and constrain good design.
Trish Hanchette introduced the Lennar “NextGen” housing product, describing how Cary’s regulations on outdoor entrances and multiple kitchens necessitated design changes. Trish also shared her personal experience with a backyard cottage, pointing out that owners of ADUs typically vet renters closely, resulting in quiet, professional tenants. “My children play in the backyard, so whoever lives there has to be someone I trust.” Aaron added that even ADUs near universities don’t typically attract young, rowdy students, but instead single or married graduate students.
Pat Young, providing the “Team Planner” perspective, gave an overview of the Durham ADU code, highlighting the increase in single family households as a demographic shift that communities need to respond to by adding more housing options. Pat also echoed Aaron’s contention that very few complaints had been lodged against ADUs—the main objection he’s heard has been backyard privacy concerns from neighboring properties. Overall, however, Durham’s “by right” ADU policy was working well.
Raleigh, on the other hand, has taken a much more cautious approach to permitting ADUs under their code. Charles Dillard presented research from other cities including Toronto and Portland that have a robust ADU community. He also shared the results of a recent citizen survey in Raleigh which showed most respondents favored allowing ADUs. The City will be introducing a pilot study in the Mordecai neighborhood near downtown Raleigh to help inform any changes to the code.
In a lively Q&A following the presentations, the audience reacted negatively to Raleigh’s proposed 20-30 foot rear lot line setback for ADUs, calling them unfeasible, particularly in older neighborhoods with smaller lots. There was also general consensus that those older neighborhoods with alley (or laneway) access were perfect for the siting and incorporation of ADUs into the residential fabric.