Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
January 18, 2019 12:39 p.m.
At their January 15, 2019 Regular Meeting, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) once again considered an amendment to City Code which would address requirements for accessory dwelling units. This was second reading of Ordinance 2018-40, which the FBCC first approved at its Regular Meeting on October 16, 2018.
On second reading, some changes were proposed. A second dwelling unit, often referred to as a “Granny Flat” or “In-laws Apartment” would only be allowed for homesteaded properties. Commissioner Chip Ross indicated his opposition to allowing for such use in areas zoned C-3 (Central Business District) and I-W (Industrial Waterfront). Most Commissioners also seemed sympathetic to expanding the scope of the proposal to include Old Town residential properties.
Commissioner Phil Chapman continued his opposition to the ordinance, expressing concerns that it would adversely impact neighborhood character and result in increased stormwater problems and more removal of the city’s tree canopy.
Commissioner Ross indicated that auxiliary buildings are currently allowed under the code. The only change would be that homesteaded property owners would be allowed to rent these units, which could contain working kitchens. Commissioners discussed the fact that many such units exist already, some of which have been rented out in violation of existing code.
Most commissioners appeared sympathetic to requests from Old Town residents that their properties be included in the ordinance change. However, because the inclusion of Old Town had not been part of the original proposal, commissioners on a 4-1 vote (Chapman dissenting) approved the proposed ordinance with the proviso that it be considered by the Planning and Advisory Board and the Historic District Council before returning to the FBCC for a third reading later this spring.
According to a summary provided by city staff, in communities across the United States, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have become well regarded as a strategy for infill development that more immediately supports increased housing options and can serve to address a wide-range of housing needs while maximizing the capacity provided by existing infrastructure in a form more consistent with the City’s traditional neighborhood character. Expansion of the City’s existing ADU policy to allow both attached and detached ADUs, approve separate metering of water and sewer services, and enable rental income generation will support the City Commission’s policy direction for increasing affordable and workforce housing options. All other design-based limitations contained in the existing governing policy remain in effect.
An ADU in the City is limited to a building footprint of 625 square feet and may not exceed 25 feet in height. Detached accessory structure’s must be setback at least 25 feet in the front yard and no less than 3 feet from the side or rear property lines. An attached accessory dwelling must comply with the principal structure setback requirements and limited to the 25-foot building height.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.