Devils Lake considers 'caregiver units'
DEVILS LAKE--Language drafted by Devils Lake city staff would allow the construction of "caregiver units" next to homes. An ordinance describing an "accessory dwelling unit" will have its first reading during a Devils Lake Commission meeting Mond...
DEVILS LAKE-Language drafted by Devils Lake city staff would allow the construction of "caregiver units" next to homes.
An ordinance describing an "accessory dwelling unit" will have its first reading during a Devils Lake Commission meeting Monday in City Hall. Defined as a dwelling that would sit on a lot detached from or attached to an existing single-family home, the secondary structure - sometimes referred to as a "caregiver unit"-would allow a caregiver or blood relative to live there so he or she could better serve someone who needs care.
"Over the last few years, we've had two or three people ask about adding (a structure)," said Gary Martinson, the Devils Lake city assessor who also serves as a building official and inspector.
The unit also could house the person who needs care, but the owner of the single-family unit must live in either the house or caregiver unit, meaning the structure could not be rented out to anyone, a case Devils Lake commissioners wanted to avoid, Mayor Dick Johnson said.
A second dwelling now is not allowed on a single-family lot, Martinson said. Any home exceeding 900 square feet is considered a single-family dwelling.
"Basically, you can build an accessory garage ... but you can't build a second dwelling there," he said of the city's current language on the matter.
If approved, the ordinance would require a resident who wants to build a caregiver unit on his or her property to obtain a conditional-use permit, Martinson said. Only one unit-not exceeding 40 percent of the gross floor area of the main floor living area of the existing dwelling-could be placed on the property. The unit could be up to 800 square feet but no smaller than 300 square feet. It must be a single-story unit, and the combined square footage of the house and unit cannot exceed the lot size.
The existing dwelling could not be reduced below the 900 square feet required by city code.
The unit also would need to meet city code, including connections to public utilities, if available, and having sufficient sewage treatment and disposal.
The ordinance provides a way for families to take care of loved ones who need medical attention without putting them in assisted living, Martinson said, adding the dwellings would give privacy to those caring for people or those receiving care.
"Health care costs are always getting higher, and long-term care is higher," he said. "You don't want to put someone in (an assisted-living) home if you don't have to, and I think that was the idea behind this."
The city looked at similar ordinances passed by other cities across the country, including ones recently approved in Bismarck and Minot, Martinson said.
Johnson said he was in favor of the units as long as they weren't being rented out but instead being used by caregivers and family members to take care of blood relatives. He said the elderly population is increasing, and more people will need assisted-living care. This could help solve that issue, he said.
"I do think there is a need for that," he said. "I think it is good for the community and good to keep the family together."
Final approval of the ordinance could come as soon as the commission's Dec. 19 meeting after it holds a public hearing.