ADU policy will let senior citizens age in place and solve development woes

The op-ed published on September 11, 2019 argued that the Accessory Dwelling Units proposal before the Planning Commission “lacked backbone” and would allow a spate of low-quality, over-populated units to take over the city (despite originally saying it was “a good idea”). However, none of the arguments made in the piece stand up to scrutiny.

First and foremost, the author argues that the ADU ordinance will be used as a method for large landlords to build properties that violate code and zoning laws established in the ordinance. Surely, if these landlords were willing to so casually dismiss the well-crafted regulation introduced by this ordinance, they would also be willing to flout current rules against development. If the code enforcement department isn’t up to the task of enforcing building regulations, we should see illegal development happening all around town right now! In fact, such interpretive applications of the code do occur in places around Lexington: as Mr. Stamatiadis points out, some houses around UK have been the target of illegal development.

This is plainly not the fault of a yet-to-be-implemented ADU policy. If anything, a codified ADU proposal would make a clearer distinction between add-on developments to existing houses for the purpose of “expansion” and conversions to create an additional housing unit. If enforcement of codes is an issue, giving the codes department more resources to enforce the codes is the solution. An unwillingness to fix one legitimate problem is not a good reason to refuse to fix another.

The other main issue addressed in the op-ed was parking (or the lack of it). From my time at community meetings surrounding ADUs, this seems to be a common concern. That’s understandable; Lexington has historically been fairly car-centric and many of the people making those comments live their lives under the assumption that they must have a car. However, that’s not the case for everyone. These days, more and more people, myself included, are choosing to live without a car in exchange for walkable environments like Chevy Chase and the UK campus area. Furthermore, many people in the “target population” for ADUs (retirees looking to downsize but wanting to stay near family and friends) no longer need to drive. It would be wrong for Lexington to mandate that these people—especially retirees living on a fixed income—pay $5,000-10,000 in extra costs for a parking space they don’t need.

ADUs are not a magic bullet, and they won’t single-handedly solve the forthcoming housing crunch. But together with targeted infill and smart redevelopment strategies, they can help Lexington residents age in place and live in dignity without forcing us to expand the urban service boundary. It’s vital that we pay attention to the lessons learned from other communities, and that’s exactly what the Planning Division has done with their proposal.

Drew Taylor is a senior Economics and Political Science major at UK and the President of the College Democrats.