Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh leaders are considering a change to local zoning rules that could add places to live to existing property parcels.
Right now, homeowners seeking more space can request an expansion permit, but any addition must be connected to the existing home. Under the proposal, property owners could add a detached house, sometimes called a "granny flat" or "backyard cottage," which would be free-standing and include living area, bathroom, kitchen and a locked entrance.
"This is an innovative approach for the city to grow, and our city needs to be looking at ways that we can innovate," said Councilman Bonner Gaylord.
Josh Whiton bought his home in Oakwood with a backyard cottage in mind. Whiton, who is single, planned to rent out the bigger house while living on the property in a cottage. "I had no idea that they were outlawed," he said.
Raleigh's City Council is scheduled to discuss a draft plan at its meeting next Tuesday, but Whiton is worried it won't go far enough. The draft establishes the minimum size lot that can accommodate a second structure (4,000 square feet), a maximum size for any such cottage (800 square feet) and establishes set-backs from surrounding streets and properties.
For Whiton, the proposal would require him to build right in the middle of his back yard.
"It's becoming so restrictive that it's not going to be feasible," he said. "If anything passes, it's not feasible for anybody to actually implement, and it will be a lot of work for nothing."
Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said sentiment toward the plan has been evenly split. "There are those who certainly want it and believe it will be a nice option for people who want to rent," he said.
Opponents worry that more living spaces mean more renters in the city and more absentee landlords. Waverly Smith, a north Raleigh resident, said, "We already have that now with the rental units we have." Smith's council representative, Randy Stagner, said his constituents have been predominantly opposed to the idea.
The council could decide to allow Oakwood to be a pilot before opening the cottage option to the city at large.