CONA’s Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) Assessment

To:           City of Bloomington Plan Commission
From:     Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA)
Date:      June 8, 2017
Re:           Accessory Dwelling Units

CONA members recognize the merits of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Nonetheless, great fear remains regarding the ability to implement and craft an ordinance that will be enforceable and legal while will not thwarting the quality of life in single family neighborhoods.

A representative group from CONA met with the Mayor and his staff on May 1 to discuss the impending ordinance. Below is language we shared with the Mayor regarding CONA’s concerns regarding ADUs. Though we had a good conversation about the issues, CONA believes these issues are still mostly unresolved and worth discussing.

Major Concerns

  • Neighborhoods located close to the university and in the core neighborhoods surrounding downtown are already at higher densities than other areas of the city. ADUs will unduly burden these already dense core areas. Many areas outside the core neighborhoods are protected by neighborhood covenants and will not be subject to this new ordinance.
  • ADUs create the temptation to build illegal dual rentals per single-family lot which will create unmanageable challenges for limited on-street parking along with the other hazards of over-occupied student housing.
  • Core neighborhoods should not become more of a magnet for landlords as a consequence of the ADU ordinance. Residents in the poorer core neighborhoods are less likely to be able to afford to build new ADUs. Therefore, these neighborhoods will be targeted by landlords increasing the price of historically affordable housing stock and pricing residents out of their own neighborhoods.
  • Existing HAND regulations are currently not adequately enforced. The city has acknowledged that there are currently ADUs that exist in Bloomington illegally. Without adequate enforcement, ADUs will become illegal dual rentals. ADUs should not become another opportunity to violate for profit. What will prevent an owner from living in a house for a few months while they work on an ADU and then move out after being granted a permit?

Unanswered Questions

  • Is it legal to require the owner to live in one of the structures? Does Indiana state law allow local zoning regulation of property ownership? The mandatory owner-occupied concept needs to be verified by solid and supportable research by the Legal Department.
  • Subdivisions that have a covenant against more than one residential structure per lot will have a private means to prevent ADUs. This ordnance will create conflict between city regulations and subdivision covenants. Potentially, this places an onerous burden on neighbors to enforce subdivision covenants. Many newer subdivisions with exclusionary covenants are the areas where additional density is desirable.
  • How will the deed restriction be tracked and enforced? Perhaps a sunset date in the ordinance might be better.
  • How will the optional Homestead Exemption stop illegal ADUs from being built?
  • Is it legal to only allow 30 test ADUs or will other property owners demand equal rights? Do you have to treat all property owners equally? How does this not establish a precedent
  • How many unrelated people will be allowed to live on the single-family lot?
  • How many unrelated people will be allowed to live in an ADU? As was proposed in the previous ADU ordinance, the whole property should be limited to not more than 3 unrelated adults. For clarity this should be in the ADU section. This would allow two adult owners to have one tenant or a single owner to have two.
  • If the goal is to provide affordable housing, how will this be guaranteed? Should an affordable agreement contract be mandated?
  • Will “hidden” addresses located off-street be hazardous for the health and safety of occupants and neighborhoods? How will police, fire and ambulances find these “hidden” addresses?


  • Ordinance should be “Conditional Use” only—not by-right.
  • ADUs should have rear buffering from neighboring houses. Rear Building Setback should be greater than accessory shed allowance of 5’. Rear setback for residential dwelling assures privacy and buffers noise, smells and mitigates the general impact of day to day living in neighborhoods.
  • Maximum impervious surface coverage/greenspace should be maintained for each zoning district.
  • Architectural standards should be mandatory. Design of ADUs should be contextual to the primary single family dwelling.
  • Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) should be required in historic districts. ADUs should conform in all respects with historic district guidelines.
  • No new structures should be built for the 30 unit test. New ADUs should be allowed only in existing garages and attached UDOs in existing homeowner’s house. Existing illegal ADUs should not be rewarded by granting them an occupancy permit to bring them into compliance.
  • Fines should be required for illegal ADUs. In addition to removal of kitchen, space should be used only as part of the original dwelling unit or as a permitted accessory, such as art studio, playhouse, storage.
  • The review of homestead property tax credits affords a means to find violations; the ADU ordinance should mandate who checks, how often, and require enforcement. The regulation and ADU building will be with us long after its proponents are gone from Bloomington government and we do not want to see low priority, complaint driven enforcement. The 5 year rental inspection cycle is too long for this purpose.

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