The Union Planning and Zoning Commission is moving closer to approving an ordinance for accessory dwellings but has yet to decide whether it would apply only to small homes for family members with disabilities.

The board voted July 26 to authorize staff to write an ordinance allowing the dwellings on the same lot as an existing home. The final ordinance will need approval from the commission and the Union Board of Aldermen.  

The issue was brought forward by Alderman Dennis Soetebier, who wants to build a dwelling for a family member with mobility issues.

“Typically, we would do it inside the house; it’s a whole lot cheaper,” he said after the meeting. “But I’ve got a 1930s house that would be particularly difficult to make accessible.”

The city plans to have some differences between its ordinance and the existing accessory dwelling rules for Franklin County. Although the county allows mobile homes to be used for people with medical exceptions, the city plans to require the homes have a foundation.

“I don’t think it would necessarily be a good idea to do that,” Jonathan Zimmermann said of allowing trailers. 

Since lots in the city are typically smaller than in the unincorporated county, the city will likely not have the minimum 1 acre of land required for a house to have an accessory dwelling, like Franklin County has.

The city would likely follow county rules on what is required to be done with an accessory dwelling if it is no longer being used by a person with a disability.

“It’s either change it into more or less just a plain accessory, like a shed, or get rid of it if you don’t want it to be used as a dwelling,” Zimmermann said.

The city is considering using a permitting process that would require applicants provide a notification from their doctor to show they have medical needs. 

Staff will draft two ordinances, one with a requirement that it be used for a person with a medical need and another without the requirement, giving the planning and zoning commission the opportunity to determine which is better.

“If the kids come back from college and need a place to live for a year,” commission Chairman Greg Bailey said, “there’s other things that these can be used for.”

The ordinance would apply to someone who wants to build a tiny home, as long as it is on a foundation, as well as someone who wants to convert a garage to a dwelling.