The proposed new Unified Development Ordinance allows backyard cottages within 10 feet of the side and back lot lines in residential neighborhoods. Although these cottages can be charming and useful when well-regulated and when part of a neighborhood plan, they will mean bye-bye backyards for Raleigh's existing green neighborhoods and are an invitation for abuse by absentee property owners. Here's why:
* Allowing backyard cottages can double the number of free-standing dwellings in an area, without zoning changes required.
* North Carolina law does not allow cities to mandate on-site owner occupancy on a lot with a backyard cottage, gutting our ability to regulate these properly. This will be especially problematic in neighborhoods with low-income or rental housing.
* Four unrelated people will be allowed in the primary dwelling and two in the backyard cottage. Many of these people will have sweethearts, cars, and pets, adding to the traffic and noise in neighborhoods.
* Compared to the primary dwelling, backyard cottages can be built 20' closer to the rear property line in areas zoned R-1, R-2, and R-4 and 10' closer for R-6 and R-10. (Note that R-number shows the number of units per acre). This reduces the space between dwellings by 40' or 20'.
* The UDO requires that the backyard cottages be at least 35' from the primary dwelling, encouraging placement along the back lot line where they most affect the backdoor neighbors.
* Additional housing means increased water run off due to additional hardscape. It can significantly change the views from nearby backyards and isolate the remaining trees in nearby lots, increasing the possibility of storm damage.
* Backyard cottages can be tall. The 15' wall height and 25' roof height is measured from the front, but may seem much taller to a downhill neighbor when seen from the lot line. Flat roofs can have decks with 4' walls around them, topped with shade structures that rise to 37'.
* Backyard cottages can be near. Not only can they be built 10' or 20' feet closer to the rear lot line than primary dwellings, but their porches, balconies, outside staircases, AC units, and more can extend into that setback.
* There is already a provision for an accessory apartment attached to the main dwelling which will provide many of the benefits of the backyard cottage, including private space for family members and rental income. Accessory dwellings have to be built within the same setbacks as the primary dwelling, reducing their impact on a neighborhood. If these cottages are indeed for "Granny," why put her 35' away from the main house?