Renting guest houses could help Carson City housing shortage

The Planning Commission on Wednesday continued to wrestle with a new ordinance to let homeowners rent out guest houses on their property.

Currently, under Carson City municipal code, accessory dwelling units can be used for family members or non-paying guests only.

But, the city is considering allowing owners to lease the units on a long-term basis as part of an effort to make a dent in the housing shortage.

The Planning Commission took up the topic last month but tabled it for more information and until the full board could be present to decide.

After an hour of discussion on Wednesday, the commission again took no action but gave city staff plenty of direction for writing a new ordinance, which will come back to the commission and, if passed, make its way to the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

Much of the discussion surrounded definitions and what would be required in the dwelling units.

Right now, code doesn’t require guest buildings to have kitchens; many are used as artist studios or offices, or for visiting guests.

The commission wanted to ensure units rented to live in include some type of kitchen so the new ordinance will create a second category of accessory unit that stipulates a minimum cooking facility.

There are other current restrictions on accessory units — they can’t exceed 50 percent of the size of the primary residence, for example — that will carry over to the new category.

The units will be allowed on lots that are 6,000 square feet and larger, and on smaller lots with a special use permit.

Each will require one, on-site parking space. And the units can only be rented long-term and not for 28 days or less to be used, for example, as an Airbnb vacation rental.

The commission also discussed whether to require the main house to be owner occupied and decided not to include that, and to include both attached and detached units in the ordinance.

“Using different approval processes for attached and detached can become problematic,” said Hope Sullivan, planning manager, Community Development, especially if the standards for an attached unit are somehow easier to meet. “People start to build covered walkways to make it attached.”

The commission also voted to recommend to the supervisors abandonment of up to a 20-foot wide public ingress/egress easement from Ash Canyon Road to Wellington South, and approved an SUP for additional, larger freestanding signs at Carson Tahoe Care Center, a congregate care facility at 1001 Mountain St., under construction.


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