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Drop 'dwelling unit' idea

Editorial for Nov. 23, 2006

The Snowden Community Council is on the right track in its appeal of Klickitat County's proposed "Accessory Dwelling Units" (ADU) amendment.

In short, the ADU concept would eliminate the county's current provisions regarding temporary use of a mobile home, and instead "allow a second home on parcels to remain permanently" in most unincorporated areas of Klickitat County.

The county defines "Accessory Dwelling Units" as: "A habitable living unit (providing for basic requirements of sleeping quarters, heating, kitchen facilities, and sanitation) that is subordinate in size, location, and function to the principle living unit."

This idea is flawed and potentially calamitous to our county. After all, with this proposal, almost every lot in parts of the county outside the incorporated cities could have a second dwelling put on them. The potential result could be a virtual doubling of the county's population, with all the usual problems that could bring -- traffic congestion, strains on police and fire resources, increased crime, more pressure on our already tight water resources, and a general reduction in the quality of life, especially in our rural areas.

Given all that, it is baffling that the Klickitat County Planning Department has determined that the ADU amendment is seen as having "no probable significant impact on the environment."

The county sees several benefits the ADU amendment could bring, including providing homeowners with a means of obtaining supplemental rental income and expanding opportunities for affordable housing. Those are worthy goals, but this proposal goes way overboard in trying to achieve them.

In its unanimous (7-0) appeal, members of the Snowden Community Council raised several strong concerns, among them: The county "grossly underestimated the potential impacts" of the ADUs and their occupants, and the ADU provisions would undercut the existing comprehensive zoning plans for the county.

Perhaps most worrisome, the council's appeal pointed out that the county's proposed ADU amendment places no limits on how many ADUs could be constructed, nor on how many people could live in them. "In theory, they would permit the construction of a second home on virtually every lot ... throughout most of the county," read one excerpt of the appeal document.

The ADU concept is a drastic plan that needs to be shelved, or at the very least heavily modified. An extreme alteration in our existing zoning rules is not in the best interest of Klickitat County residents.

Residents of the county need to make their views about this proposal to the Klickitat County Commissioners and the Klickitat County Planning Department before it's too late.



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