‘Accessory apartments’ law jumps through last hurdle -- Gazette.Net


Montgomery County’s new law to make it easier for homeowners to have accessory apartments became permanent at a Planning Housing and Economic Development committee meeting on Monday.

In February, the County Council unanimously passed a zoning text amendment and a bill to simplify the process, reducing the average application process from about six months to three.

The county had been operating under a temporary executive regulation since May of this year, when the new law took effect. The recent meeting made the zoning regulations permanent.

The idea of simplifying the process of OK’ing accessory apartments had been floated around the county for the past decade. Accessory apartments can not only provide more affordable housing, according to county documents, but allow aging parents or caretakers to be close to family.

In the past, those interested had to go through a “special exception” process that critics called cumbersome and costly.

Most owners of single-family detached homes in the county can create and rent an accessory apartment in their home if they follow set procedures. An accessory apartment is defined as a second dwelling that is part of, but subordinate to or on the same lot as, an existing single-family detached home. It must have its own provisions for cooking, eating, bathing and sleeping.

County law does not apply to Barnesville, Brookeville, Gaithersburg, Laytonsville, Poolesville, Rockville and Washington Grove, since these towns have their own regulations regarding accessory apartments.

Under the new system, those who want to turn part of their single family homes into an accessory apartment would pay an annual licensing fee of $98, an application fee of $250 and pay for a yard sign that announces the application, which would run $220, half of which would be refunded once the sign was returned.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park questioned whether the process was not still too complicated and costly.

“Isn’t that a lot?” asked Floreen, who chairs the committee. “We were trying to make this easier, not harder.”

The new process is working well, said Richard Nelson, director of the office of housing and community affairs.

Since the bill was passed, 15 applications have come in to the licensing and registration section of the department of housing and community affairs. Of those, five have been licensed, one has been approved but not yet licensed, five have conditional approval — meaning they have to make minor changes to their property to satisfy code requirements — three are still pending and one has been denied.