Oregon Capitol

Landowners in Oregon’s rural residential zones would be allowed to build accessory dwelling units, commonly called “granny flats,” under recently proposed legislation.

Such ADUs are currently prohibited outside urban areas but there’s interest among rural residents about building them as well, said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland.

“I was sympathetic to that desire but I realize it’s a controversial idea,” Dembrow said before the House Agriculture Committee on Dec. 14.

While Oregon’s land use system aims to preserve farmland for agricultural uses, lawmakers have increasingly been concerned about housing shortages across the state.

Dembrow convened a work group to create “sideboards” for the concept of allowing rural ADUs, resulting in a “legislative concept” under which such structures would only be permitted in rural residential zones, as opposed to “exclusive farm use” zones dedicated to agriculture.

Allowing rural residential ADUs would not be mandatory under the proposal, which would let individual counties decide whether to allow such structures, Dembrow said.

Another controversial aspect of ADUs — whether they can be used for short-term rentals — would also fall to county government discretion, he said.

Whether ADUs contribute to traffic congestion or cause other undesirable conditions could be considered in the county’s decision whether to allow them, Dembrow said.

Although the text of the legislation has been drafted, the work group will continue to meet to refine the bill, he said.

To be eligible for a rural residential ADU, the landowner’s property must be at least 2 acres and only a single ADU structure per parcel would be permitted.

The ADU would have to be built within 100 feet of the primary dwelling and couldn’t be larger than 900 square feet.

If the water source for the structure is a well, the ADU cannot be built within an area where groundwater withdrawals have been restricted.

The structures would also be subject to restrictions related to fire safety and wastewater disposal.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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