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Recommendation goes to Jefferson Commissioners on whether to allow accessory dwelling units

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Accessory dwelling units like this one are allowed in Madras, but not in the rest of Jefferson County. The county planning commission wants to keep it that way, at least for now.

People in Jefferson County eager to add an accessory dwelling unit to their property will have to wait, at least for the time being.

The seven-member Jefferson County Planning Commission voted against opening the door to accessory dwelling units in the county.

Wednesday, Sept. 28, the commission presented its decision to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, which will make the final decision.

"If we're going to add ADUs to rural residential land, we actually may not add that many additional living spaces to address the county housing shortage," said Roy Hyder, planning commission chair, " but we create unanticipated problems as well as conflicts between neighbors."

Regulations in Oregon require cities of 10,000 or more to allow ADUs. Smaller cities may allow ADUs. Madras has chosen to allow them. The cities of Culver and Metolius do not currently allow ADUs. Changes in the law give counties the opportunity to allow ADUs in rural residential areas. Crooked River Ranch had the most properties that qualified for ADUs, 839, followed by Three Rivers, with 554 properties. The rest of the county had relatively few qualifying properties, 216.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - A survey of Jefferson County resdients shows most people interested in adding ADUs would use them for friends or family.

When the county surveyed residents about ADUs, 102 people responded. Of those, 10% said they'd use ADUs for rental, 70-80% said they'd use ADUs for relatives or guests, 50% specified they'd use it for an elderly family member.

Pete Bicart, who also sits on the commission, voted in favor of allowing ADUs. While people tend to think of ADUs as tiny houses or separate dwellings; additions on houses, garage conversions or basement apartments also qualify.

"Right now for someone to do that in rural Jefferson County there are zoning restrictions against that," argued Bicart. "This would make it easier for folks to covert those garages, shops and basements."

Commissioner Wayne Fording points out that people already have made the conversions or added ADUs to their property regardless of the regulations. "If we can find a path where to make these safer, inspected, legitimate to where everyone's not doing it under the table it would be a good thing. It would help the staff," said Fording.

Counties cannot establish guidelines for the ADUs until the state completes a map outlining wildfire risk zones. The state released a a wildfire risk map in late July, then withdrew the map after a onslaught of complaints from property owners.

Deschutes County plans to allow ADUs once the state finalizes its wildfire risk map. That creates an awkward situation for Crooked River Ranch, which straddles both Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

"There's so much that's unclear right now," said Commissioner Fording. "It might be a good idea to sit back and see what the Legislature's going to do."

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