State Lawmakers Reluctant to Regulate Accessory Dwellings, Summit Councilors Say

Jan 21, 2021

Credit Summit County

On Wednesday, the subject of accessory dwellings such as nightly vacation rentals—and resident complaints about them—came up before the Summit County Council.

During its legislative update, some Council members noted that state legislators aren’t interested in regulating them.

 

The staff reported that one bill they’re following, HB 82, makes several changes to state law on accessory dwellings. It reportedly calls on cities and counties to classify certain accessory dwellings as a permitted land use. 

 

They’re also prohibited from “establishing restrictions or requirements for the construction or use of certain accessory dwelling units.”

 

Council Member Doug Clyde said the accessory spaces are attracting flak and haven’t lived up to the promises that were made about them.

 

“We now, I think, understand that they’re really the sperm of the devil, frankly,” Clyde said. “We thought that they were initially something that might help us with taking care of our grandchildren, grandkids, grandparents, maybe somebody who had their help stay in their accessory dwelling unit. I think the last comment I heard from Planning was they’re just waiting for pigs to fly. Soon as that’s done, then accessory dwelling units will fulfill their promise. Right now they are just a black hole for misuse of land, and for substantial disturbance and annoyance among the neighbors in any given neighborhood.”

 

Deputy County Manager Janna Young noted that County Economic Development Director Jeff Jones sits on a state housing committee. She said Jones voted against the bill because it didn’t address or prohibit nightly rentals.

 

“And he felt like without that provision or that restriction, accessory dwelling units aren’t going to help our housing stock problem or affordable-housing problem or even provide additional housing for folks in this state,” she said. “As we know, our population is growing very quickly. And it was presented as a potential solution for that, and he felt like it missed the mark.”

 

Clyde agreed, saying that the benefit of the lack of regulation has been unequally distributed.

 

“The only mark it hit was the homebuilders’ bank account,” he said. “It hit that mark really well, right on the head—absolutely nothing for our enforcement issues.”

 

Council Member Glenn Wright seconded Clyde’s comments.

 

“Without a prohibition on nightly rentals, all it is, is a license to Airbnb a portion of your house,” Wright said. 

 

“Frankly, our residents are fed up with it,” said Clyde. “They’re tired of it. And we’ve got a code that, for all intents and purposes, encourages them. And the Legislature says, ‘Nope, you can’t regulate these things.’ So, as usual, we find ourselves in a place where our constituents are very clear that they want these things to be regulated. But the state, as a matter of course, believes that they should be unregulated in order to promote rapid building of housing, regardless of who it’s for.”