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Planning board recommends easing restrictions on granny flats

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Planning Board recommends that City Council loosen regulations on second homes built on the same lot as an original house.

Called secondary dwelling units, these homes are sometimes referred to as granny flats or mother-in-law suites. The planning board on Tuesday unanimously recommended changes to the city’s Land Development Ordinance that would make it easier for people to build a secondary home or renovate existing space to create one, like a garage apartment.

If City Council approves the changes, the rural residential zoning district would no longer require a special use permit for a secondary home. Obtaining a special use permit requires a public hearing and a nod from City Council. General residential, urban residential and historic residential zoning districts, however, would still require a special use permit and public vetting process.

Secondary homes also would no longer be limited to 750 square feet but could be constructed up to 40 percent of the size of the primary home.

The new language would allow one secondary home per lot. A detached secondary home in general residential, urban residential and historic residential would have to stand in the back yard, but the home could stand anywhere in rural residential, as long as the lot is at least 5 acres in size.

A secondary home could not be higher than the original residence and could not be subdivided. The owner would have to comply with building standards laid out in city code.

Only in rural residential, the secondary home could be manufactured housing and, with a special use permit, could exceed 40 percent of the size of the original house.

Ann Meacham spoke in favor of easing tight restrictions on secondary homes. She said she and her husband would like to put a mobile home on their property at 1312 Faith Road for their son and daughter-in-law, who have been living miles away for years. All four people are disabled, Meacham said, and they count on each other for care.

“We would like to move them on our acreage so we can look out for them and they can look after us,” she said.

Meacham may get her wish. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the planning board recommended that City Council rezone the Meachams’ property and several other Faith Road lots from general residential to rural residential to comply with the Eastern Gateway Area Plan. Both changes if approved would allow the Meachams and others to use a mobile home as a secondary home.

Salisbury has seen one secondary home constructed since City Council adopted the Land Development Ordinance in 2008, which regulates the structures. That home is in Fulton Heights, said Preston Mitchell, the city’s Planning and Development Services manager.

About a half dozen people over the years have inquired about building a secondary home on their property, Mitchell said, and a few were dissuaded by the 750-square-foot limit.

The idea of secondary homes, whether standalone or attached, is growing in popularity, and Mitchell had recommended the planning board revisit the city’s rules.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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