Pending Moscow City Council approval Monday, Moscow property owners ineligible to construct an accessory dwelling unit on their lot because of its size will be allowed to build one if they choose.

Since the city council in 2015 approved an ADU ordinance allowing the units in all residential zones, eight ADUs — separate units that are accessory to single-family dwellings — have been constructed throughout the city.

But several properties do not meet the minimum lot area of the zoning district they are in and city staff has received numerous inquiries since 2015 regarding establishing ADUs on lots with nonconforming sizes, Moscow Planning Manager Mike Ray told the Moscow City Council Administrative Committee Monday.

The proposal, recommended by the Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission, would remove the limited lot size eligibility requirement from the ordinance to open ADU opportunities to the nonconforming lot owners.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance change is scheduled for Monday’s city council meeting at 7 p.m. at city hall. The commission also recommended allowing ADUs to have separate electric and water meters, which is part of the public hearing and which the council can approve after the hearing.

Ray said most of the nonconforming lot sizes are located in traditional neighborhoods — like the Fort Russell Historic District — which are close to downtown and where the city is promoting infill development.

One of the goals of the city’s Comprehensive Plan is to promote a variety of housing types while preserving neighborhood character. Ray said ADUs also provide affordable housing opportunities.

The city’s development standards restrict the size of ADUs so they are accessory to the principal structure on the property, Ray said.

The ADUs must be no more than 600 square feet in size or 40 percent of the gross floor area of the principal dwelling, whichever is less. Occupancy of the ADUs is limited to two and the owner must live in the ADU or in the principal dwelling on the property. One off-street parking space is required for the ADU.

Even if the council does eliminate the minimum lot size requirement, Ray said certain lots might be so small that they likely would not be able to meet the one off-street parking space requirement for an ADU.

According to a citizen survey question to Moscow residents prior to the 2015 ADU ordinance adoption, most people stated they would support ADUs in their neighborhood. Ray said 38 percent agreed and 25 percent strongly agreed that the units should be allowed.

“People aren’t knocking down the door of our office to permit ADUs, but they don’t really have an issue with other people in the neighborhood having them,” Ray said.

The Administrative Committee on Monday also appeared receptive to two ordinance amendments to the off-street parking section of the zoning code.

The code currently requires single-family and two-family dwellings to provide two off-street parking spaces per dwelling unit. Of the two off-street parking spaces, one space is required to be covered by a garage or carport, or located in an area of the property that could be covered in the future.

In the R-1 Zoning District, single-family dwellings are required to provide two off-street parking spaces that are covered by a garage or carport, or could potentially be covered in the future.

Ray said the covered parking requirement is uncommon in other municipalities and has presented challenges to certain development projects in Moscow.

He said the city’s primary concern is that off-street parking is provided and it is not necessarily concerned whether or not it is covered.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended eliminating the covered parking requirement from the off-street parking standards.

The commission also proposed changing the miniature golf facility off-street parking requirement of 4 spaces per hole to one space per hole. Mini golf facilities currently have the same parking requirements as regular golf courses even though the facilities are substantially smaller in area. Ray said the city has communicated the last couple of months with a business that is looking to locate in the city and provide mini golf services.

The proposed ordinance changes will also receive a public hearing at Monday’s meeting.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to

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