Some Ordinances Boost Property Rights

An Accessory Dwelling above a garage on an alley.
A former garage converted into an Accessory Dwelling 

Some Ordinances Boost Property Rights– November 30, 1992

By Brent Thompson

Written as a paid editorial writer for the Ashland Daily Tidings while on the Ashland Planning Commission 

          In the past two years the Ashland City Council made several ordinance changes that actually increased what Ashland property owners can do with their property.

          Included in the Affordable Housing Ordinance is a provision permitting accessory dwelling units in all single family zones.   The dwelling can be no more than 1000 square feet or no more than one half the size of the principal residence, which ever is smaller.   There must be adequate space for the additional parking required, and the application is subject to the Conditional Use Permit process.  The purpose of this ordinance was principally to provide more small, low cost apartments in Ashland.  But it also enhances the ability of purchasers to afford a home because of the possibility of renting out a portion of their home to help pay expenses.  The ordinance has the additional benefit of permitting additional density in a low impact fashion as a means of discouraging sprawl.

          Another change reduced parking requirements to one space for units under 500 square feet.  This further encouraged the construction of small affordable dwellings whether they be an addition to a principal residence or part of an apartment complex. .  Any reduction of parking requirements towards normal need rather than maximum possible need is an enhancement of property rights.

          Parking requirements were also reduced for commercial projects towards normal need, which makes additional development possible on a number of existing commercial sites.   In addition to enhancing property rights, this measure is an anti-sprawl measure in that it enables more to get done in less space.  It should also have an influence on improving highway areas, because additional construction will have to conform with site design guidelines regarding the placement of new structures and with regard to landscaping.  The Ashland downtown area will continue to have no parking requirement for on-site parking.  

          The reduction of parking requirements in mixed-use residential and commercial or office projects is also an enhancement of property rights.  When it can be shown that peak demand for each use is at different times, the total parking requirement may be reduced by 25 percent.  This will permit more to get done on less land which, again, is a sprawl fighting measure.

          The inclusion of a credit for on-street parking, except for areas around the downtown core and Southern Oregon State College and for streets that are below standard width enhances property rights by allowing more development on a parcel.  It is appropriate to allow credit for on street parking where streets are wide enough to accommodate both traffic loads and parking.   Most towns have large quantities of unused asphalt on streets that could accommodate parking.  Ashland has elected to use some of this space for on-street parking.

          Planning is generally seen as restricting property rights, but here are examples where planning is actually giving people more latitude with their property than in most communities, while at the same time helping to achieve some long term planning goals for the City.  This is the kind of balance cities need in planning.  

An Accessory Dwelling along side of a house 
A former Garage converted into an Accessory Dwelling