Northbrook board approves attached accessory dwelling units

 
 
Updated 3/10/2022 9:35 AM

After reaching a compromise and amending a village zoning ordinance, Northbrook trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved attached accessory dwelling units by special permit.

Attached accessory dwelling units, sometimes referred to colloquially as "in-law suites," are defined in the ordinance as "an independent dwelling unit containing a kitchen, bathroom, as well as areas for living and sleeping that is located on the same zoning lot as, and is attached to, and is an accessory and subordinate to, a standard-sized single family detached dwelling."

 

At issue was whether to allow ADUs, either attached or detached, by right or by permit.

Village President Kathryn Ciesla noted that the subject of ADUs had been discussed at 18 meetings.

"If both sides are a little unhappy, it's a successful compromise," Ciesla said.

Trustee Muriel Collison was among those opposed ADUs, saying she reached her decision to approve the zoning ordinance amendment once certain safeguards and resident protections were added.

"As many of you know, I am not in favor of ADUs in Northbrook," Collison said. "I've been very vocal about my reasons and have been frustrated many times that we are spending so much time talking about them."

Some of the ordinance requirements include: ADUs would have to be integrated into the principal family structure; be 600 square feet or less or 25% of the total floor area, whichever is less; be occupied by the owner of the lot on which the AADU is located; and be the owner's primary residence for no less than six months per year; and that the occupant of the ADU must be 55 or older or have a disability.

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Short-term rentals are not permitted under the ordinance, and owners would need to provide an annual affidavit to show compliance with the ordinance. Also, neighbors would need to be notified as part of the permitting process.

"I believe that, if the village is to allow ADUs, it should only be with clear restrictions and with the knowledge and advice of those most affected," Trustee Robert Israel said. "This ordinance is the best way, at this time, to ensure that the intended use and character of single-family zoning is maintained to the benefit of those living in the zone."

Trustee Heather Ross, who was in favor of allowing ADUs by right, said requiring ADUs by special permit could pit neighbor against neighbor, and could cause the board to approve or disapprove similar permit requests based on the level of opposition by neighbors.

"I think requiring a special permit will discourage anyone from applying," Ross said. "I'm also uncomfortable with the idea that a person with a disability has to 'recertify' each year."

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