Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill sets rules for adding apartments to private homes


The Town Council approved new rules this week that give homeowners more options for adding accessory apartments to their property.

While the town already allowed accessory apartments in most residential zoning districts, homeowners could only add an apartment if their property was double the acreage required for a single-family home in their zoning district. Accessory apartments also had to be smaller than 50 percent of the primary home’s floor area, and no bigger than 750 square feet.

The new rules, approved unanimously, limit the size of detached apartments to 750 square feet, or 75 percent of the main home’s floor area, whichever is smaller.

The rules for attached apartments, including basement units, now allow up to 1,000 square feet if the apartment isn’t larger than 75 percent of the main home’s floor area and don’t make the home’s existing footprint larger.

The rules limit occupancy to no more than four unrelated people living on the property.

Town staff will monitor the changes for three years. The goal is to increase the town’s stock of affordable housing, while giving homeowners more options for earning income from their property.

B&Bs postponed

The council also approved new water quality and parking lot landscaping standards, but postponed changes that would have allowed homeowners to open bed and breakfasts in the town’s historic districts.

The proposed rules would have required at least 85 percent of property owners in a proposed district to support a new B&B district and also allowed neighbors to decide the distance between multiple B&B operations. A proposed district would include, at minimum, all the lots on one side of a block.

Residents have expressed several concerns, ranging from the number of guests that would be able to stay in a B&B to the potential increase in traffic and noise. Residents also are concerned about special events that could attract bigger crowds.

Council members agreed a delay would give staff more time to consider how B&Bs are handled in other cities and how future complaints would be resolved. The delay also gives the town’s Planning Commission and Historic District Commission time to review the proposed changes, they said.

“I think that what we have now is whole set of potential rules and regulations that is not at all what the Planning Commission and Historic District Commission had to look at and to consider,” Councilwoman Sally Greene said, “and we’re not really in a rush to do this, if we do it at all.”

The town also needs to talk at some point about how to handle Airbnb and similar private rental listing services, Councilman Ed Harrison said. The growing industry has raised concerns in other cities about its impact on traditional lodging, as well as public health and safety.

The council continued a discussion of changes to the town’s sign rules to Jan. 25. Proposed changes to the rules governing local Neighborhood Conservation Districts lacked enough support for a vote.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb