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Providence hearing on apartment law change generates no public comment

December 10th, 2009 Posted in Opinion

By Chelsey Gensel

PROVIDENCE–The Providence planning commission meeting Dec. 9 included a public hearing for comments on changing a city ordinance to allow accessory dwelling units in homes in single-family residential zones. No one from the general public attended the hearing, and the only comments were from a letter read by absentee planning commissioner Don Beale and from city council member Ron Liechty.

“I’m really surprised no one came,” said planning commission member Glen Busch.

Liechty responded to Beale’s letter, which spoke against allowing the units, by explaining the city council’s intentions to restore the ordinance to the form it took in the past, when the intent was to use it on a conditional basis for “hardship cases.”

The change is on the agenda now for cases like the ones Liechty described, in which a single-family residence is trying to produce extra income by renting an apartment, such as a basement apartment or smaller attached unit, added to or created in a home.

Liechty said the former ordinance was “taken advantage of by contractors using it as a selling point,” and so was discontinued. Now, he suggests the ordinance be reinstated with careful wording to ensure that it works on a case-by-case basis.

Some clauses suggested included a yearly renewal of a permit for an accessory dwelling unit, size or aesthetic restrictions, and an owner-occupation clause for the main unit.

“We’re very tentative, as you guys are, about opening this back up,” Liechty said to the commission, many of whom expressed concerns similar to those raised in Beale’s letter. The public hearing remained open for several minutes with no public input.

“I’m shocked, actually,” commission member Wendy Wimmer said of the lack of attendance.

The council also voted to approve a variance to allow sidewalks, curb and gutter to be built by property owners on two lots along 100 East and was informed of a council decision to eliminate nightclubs as a permitted business in the city of Providence because of conflicts in listing the business as a permitted use, but not permitting the liquor licenses associated with a nightclub.

The meeting adjourned with an invitation to a Christmas buffet and a note that the next meeting will be held Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. at 15 S. Main.


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