ADUs, Minimum Lot Sizes, and Quadplexes Under Discussion in Traverse City

Zoning changes for everything from housing density to minimum lot sizes are under consideration for a city on the shores of Lake Michigan.

2 minute read

August 29, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Traverse City, Michigan is considering a package of zoning changes that would increase housing density and diversity by removing the existing cap on the number of allowable accessory dwelling units, among other changes.

“ADUs are currently capped at 15 annually, a number City Planning Director Shawn Winter has called ‘completely arbitrary,’” according to an article by Beth Milligan. “Another change would lift an owner occupancy requirement on ADUs, which stipulates that the property owner must live full-time in either the main house or the ADU.”

ADUs aren’t the only subject of the changes, however. The changes also “include allowing ADUs with a duplex, reducing the minimum land area for cluster housing, and allowing duplexes by right in the R-1a/b residential districts – which make up nearly 83 percent of all residential land in the city,” reports Milligan. “Triplexes and quadplexes would be allowed by right in the R-2 district, with ADUs allowed with duplexes and triplexes in R-2. The proposal also reduces the minimum lot width and area in the R-1a/b districts and allows two homes to be built on a lot that is twice the minimum area without being split.”

Opponents, organized under the moniker of the Alliance of Citizens for Traverse City have launched a website that describes the series of reforms as “blanket changes” and criticizing the market-based approach to housing. “Other cities that implemented these blanket zoning changes experienced skyrocketing property values (and taxes), gentrification, and loss of green spaces,” reads the website without mentioning specifics.

Research on the effects of ADU legalization and reduced minimum lot sizes was published by the Office of Policy Development and Research’s Cityscape journal.

The city’s planning commission approved the changes earlier this year. A public hearing conducted by the city commission earlier this week attracted a crowd ahead of an October 16 deadline for a date.

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