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Albany City Hall

The Albany City Council voted 4-2 on Wednesday to change portions of the city code involving accessory dwelling units, but the action faces a veto by Mayor Sharon Konopa.

Councilors Dick Olsen and Bill Coburn voted against the changes in the ordinance. Bessie Johnson, Ray Kopczynski, Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes voted in favor, passing the ordinance on its second reading.

If Konopa vetoes the ordinance, it will be the first time in her 10 years in office she will have used that power. She must cite her reasons for the veto in writing with the city clerk by 5 p.m. today, and the issue then comes up again at the council's next meeting. If five councilors approve it at that time, the changes go into effect.

Among other things, the amendments allow auxiliary dwelling units that meet all height, setback and zoning requirements to be up to 900 square feet, or up to 75 percent of the primary residence, whichever is smaller.

That's larger than the 750 square feet or up to 50 percent of the primary residence, which is what the code currently allowed. 

The current code also requires three off-street parking spaces for lots with an ADU. The amendment allows one on-street space to count for the three, as long as it's immediately adjacent and at least 25 feet long.

In an interview following the council meeting, Konopa said she's not objecting to ADUs in general, just the proposed expansion in size and the potential for extra on-street parking. 

A 750-square-foot building is about the right size for a one-bedroom apartment, Konopa said. In theory, if a couple were to share that building, they might bring with them two additional cars to the property.

But a 900-square-foot building could house a two-bedroom unit, she said. That's potentially four adults and four extra cars, and in her opinion, that's a neighborhood problem waiting to happen.

"The more cars you have parking on the street bring conflicts in neighborhoods," she said. "We should be looking at trying to prevent that from happening."

Konopa said she had hoped to have more of a discussion on the potential drawbacks to the change at Wednesday's meeting, but was cut off by a call for the vote.

"It looks like I have to veto in order to discuss next meeting," she said.

Other councilors said during Wednesday's meeting they would be fine with keeping the 750-square-foot limit, so another possibility is that the motion will be amended at the next council meeting, Konopa said. However, no amendment can take place for 30 days, which she said she feels is too long to wait for a resolution.

The council received the amendments to consider as part of updates in state law. However, the size and parking issues Albany is considering aren't mandated by the state and could be left as they are under the city's current code, said Bob Richardson, city planner.

The council could choose to reject all amendments and keep its whole code as-is, Richardson said. However, "We would be open to legal challenge if we did." 


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