Article Courtesy of The
By Dale White
Published July 9, 2019
MANATEE COUNTY — Garage apartments, mother-in-law apartments, “granny flats” —
whatever they may be called — are not a new idea.
Prior to World War II
and the suburban growth that followed, urban homes were
often built with a smaller residence — often tucked from
view in the backyard — to accommodate a single relative or a
Yet that dated concept is now a timely topic of debate in
Manatee County, where commissioners have indefinitely
postponed acting on a proposed “accessory dwelling unit”
ordinance because of neighborhood opposition.
The concept may appeal to millennials, young professionals
who find market-rate apartments with more space than they
may need to be too expensive on their starting salaries.
Middle-aged homeowners may want an apartment on their
premises for an elderly parent who can mostly live
independently but would benefit from having one of their
adult offspring nearby.
Yet, as Manatee commissioners are finding out, homeowner
associations and others may raise objections if they think
accessory dwellings could add too much density to their
neighborhoods and cause parking and other woes.
After some neighborhoods objected, the Manatee County
Commission recently tabled for further discussion and
possible revisions a proposed ordinance to allow “accessory
dwelling units,” such as garage apartments, on lots
designated for single-family homes. Several other
jurisdictions in the Tampa Bay area already allow ADUs in
designated residential zones. Proponents of the idea say it
could create more affordable housing. Opponents say it could
alter the density, character and parking availability of
The cities of
Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Petersburg and Tampa allow
accessory dwellings in specified areas.
Sarasota County’s code does as well, though its planners are
working on revisions pertaining to density calculations in
that ordinance for which public hearings will be conducted
in August and September.
Venice does not allow accessory dwellings in its
“traditional residential districts,” Jeff Shrum, the city’s
development services director, said. The city is in the
process of updating its land development code by early 2020.
“This will be a topic of conversation during the discussion
of zoning districts and alternative housing identified in
the city’s comprehensive plan,” Shrum said. He expects “any
increase or potential increase in densities is likely to be
met with a significant amount of opposition, no matter the
Affordable housing advocate Glen Gibellina hopes
Manatee County adopts an ordinance that allows “accessory dwelling
units.” He specializes in converting shipping containers into small,
storm-resistant homes that could be installed in backyards. The
owner of the main residence on the same lot could make the
additional living quarters available for a relative or a renter.
Manatee County already allows “guest houses” on single-family lots. Those
secondary units do not have kitchens and are supposed to be strictly temporary
Manatee’s proposed accessory dwelling ordinance allows kitchens and for the
secondary units to be full-time residences. The landlord must reside in the
larger house on the property.
Manatee’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and Planning Commission endorse
the concept. They think it could create more housing for the workforce.
Yet county commissioners heard stiff opposition from residents of Whitfield
Estates and Bayshore Gardens. Homeowners in those areas worry about altering the
character of neighborhoods that are predominantly single-family homes. They
expressed concerns about tenants parking in front yards. Although rules could be
implemented to require leases of more than six months, they wonder how code
enforcement officers could enforce such requirements and if units intended to be
affordable housing could become vacation rentals instead.
Commissioner Misty Servia’s Citizens Coalition on Growth also opposes the
proposed law, saying it will lead to “an appearance of overbuilt lots,
additional traffic, an increased demand on an overtaxed sewer system and an
increased number of homes with front yard ‘parking lots.’” It added that an
increase in impervious surface could worsen flooding in some areas.