Herndon delays vote on accessory living spaces changes

The Herndon Town Council delayed a decision on whether to adopt changes to secondary living structures and additions to homes. It’s slated to act on the matter Nov. 16. (Via Town of Herndon)

Town leaders want more input from residents about whether it should ease restrictions for secondary living quarters that can be part of or detached from homes.

Current rules — in place since 1983 — have limited accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for those who are older than 62 or who have a disability. But following changes in other states and by other area governments, including Fairfax County, Herndon is looking to drop those requirements and make other adjustments.

“This is relaxing the current requirements, but it’s not making it easy,” zoning administrator David Stromberg said during an Oct. 26 meeting prior to a public hearing. “There still are … a lot of standards that have to be met.”

Town council delayed a decision until its Nov. 16 meeting.

In the works since April, the review of ADU rules came after some residents expressed frustrations about the process.

Proposed changes have also called for allowing up to three people live in an ADU (raising the current restriction from two people), reducing a detached ADU maximum space from 1,200 square feet to 900 square feet, and more.

The changes would also allow many kinds of construction to happen without a special approval process, but it would also ensure building inspectors and others go through properties to make sure they’re safe.

One resident commented during the Oct. 26 public hearing. Arthur Nachman, of Vine Street, said he was against the changes because it would allow non-family members to be in detached buildings, which he said shouldn’t happen in a residential neighborhood.

While some councilmembers shared concerns and wanted more time for residents to provide feedback, Councilmember Jasbinder Singh spent the most time expressing his doubts, saying he thought it would change the town’s character.

Based on the number of ADUs occurring in Arlington County from 2017 to 2021, Stromberg estimates that the rate in Herndon will be two or three per year if they’re “by right.” Singh said he disagreed and suggested more could happen.

The delayed vote will allow the town to get more input, though technically the public hearing has closed. People can still share their opinions during a regular public comment portion of the meeting.

“It will give us time to think more about all the issues and really what motion should be made if at all,” Singh said.

Neighboring governments have already loosened restrictions. Fairfax County revised its rules for accessory units, which it calls accessory living units, as part of a larger zoning overhaul this summer, dropping its requirement that the units be restricted to older adults and people with disabilities.

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