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Omaha residents ask city to relax zoning restrictions on ‘accessory dwellings’

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - You can find accessory dwelling units all over town; they are grandfathered in.

New zoning restrictions approved about two years ago have new restrictions like lot size, off-street parking, and limits on the size of the units.

Nele Sudar is from eastern Europe. His parents live in another part of the city, and he would like to build a cottage home behind his house to move them closer.

“There’s way too many requirements that won’t allow you to build anything,” Sudar said. “There’s too many small things when it comes to zoning laws, and some of them should be loosened and not be as strict.”

“You’d have to petition 50% of your neighbors to sign onto you doing that you’d have to go in front of the city council, the planning department,” said Grace Thomas.

Kimara Snipes, president of the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, said she believes with the lack of affordable housing, easing restrictions to build ADUs is necessary.

“It’s a place for people to live there’s already now a major issue with affordable housing and I think by 2030 they expect us to have a deficit of somewhere over 130,000 people are in need of homes right now,” Snipes said.

City officials say they had only a few ADU requests in the past.

Omaha’s new ADU policy made it easier to put them in areas along Dodge Street. City officials say no one has applied to build an ADU under the new policy.

“This is not a new issue; and as a matter of fact, it’s more than an issue — it’s a crisis.”

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For Snipes, the issue of affordable housing is personal.

“I just had to move and actually resign from the school board because of the lack of affordable housing in my neighborhood,” she said. “This is a major issue, and it’s a barrier to people.”

City officials say the comprehensive ADU policy is only about 18 months old, and they will need more public input before making a change.

“We wanted to be able to give residents in our neighborhood the option to either earn some extra income have a relative or family member be able to stay in these units or just be able to age in place.”

Grace Thomas is President of the Hanscom Park Neighborhood Association. Thomas says with the lack of affordable housing, cutting through red tape to make it easier to build an ADU is necessary.

“I think it’s also possible that these could be added into the zoning code through the affordable housing plan that the city is pursuing right now that’s an option for us but really what we’re trying to do is raise awareness.”

City officials say they will need more public input on the comprehensive ADU policy before making a change, so Nela and all of his neighbors across the city will have to make some noise before his parents will be able to move closer to his house.

“I haven’t — it’s just too much — it seems like it’s not going to work out. If it’s something that I wanted to do on a short notice — probably would not happen.”

Six neighborhood groups from Benson, Leavenworth, Aksarben, Elmwood, along with south Omaha, Hanscom Park, and Saddle Creek sent a letter to the Omaha Planning Department in support of expanding the permitted use of ADUs.

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