A reasonable OK for 'granny flats'

It was an idea, as they say, whose time had come. Wake County commissioners have taken a common sense step in approving an ordinance that will allow construction of an additional dwelling as large as half the size of a lot’s main dwelling.

Previously, there was a 750-square-foot limit.

That wasn’t enough, one county resident said during a hearing. If an addition were to be built for a couple – in-laws, for example – it would have to be more than 1,100 square feet to meet federal rules and the Americans with Disabilities requirements.

Proponents of the change rightly argued that additional space isn’t always for in-laws or aging relatives. People disabled by accident or military service also could benefit. Allowing space to be built for them or for older relatives could keep people from having to search out an assisted-living setting.

Support for the change was bipartisan on the usually divided commissioners’ board. The lone dissenter was Commissioner Joe Bryan, who represents Eastern Wake County. Bryan said he feared the change could lead to two “nice-sized houses on a single-family lot,” which would not be what people moving into a neighborhood expecting single-family living expected.

That’s a valid cautionary note, but Wake County and in particular municipalities have been adjusting their rules and regulations for some time in the interest of more density and less sprawl. The new size limit on additional dwellings, known as “mother-in-law suites” or “granny flats,” does not seem like a sea change.

And here is something to consider: If the construction of such additions gets out of control, which seems unlikely, commissioners always can revisit the issue and install more guidelines. For now, though, this is worth a try.