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Guest houses/in-laws quarters


I provide planning services to a lower density (one du/ac) town. We are seeing an increased number of building permits for guesthouses/in-laws quarters that quite obviously will be converted to complete single family dwellings. The difference between the guesthouse and primary residence is that the guesthouse is not allowed to have a stove (full kitchen). The Town Council is concerned that future conversions will ultimately result in a doubling of density, yet they are reluctant to restrict further the kitchen amenities.

Has anyone had experience with this issue and formulated a successful method for addressing it?


Cyburbian Emeritus
I'm all too familiar with the topic...

This was a painful public process to develop the Guest House regs, but they seem to be working:

Guest Houses:

Definition: An attached or detached accessory building used to house guests of the occupants of the principal building, and which is never rented or offered for rent.

ALLOWED BY CONDITONAL USE IN ANY RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT: Guest houses on lots of at least 120,000 sq. ft. provided such structure shall not be rented or leased. Such structure shall be a minimum of 1,200 square feet.

*Note no restriction on kitchens etc*

We also have regulations on the books for accessory units in the same structure:

Mother-in-law units: (definition and regulation are in the same section - i know poor ordinance construction, but I inherited this one):


Any portion of a single family residence, intended to be occupied by a resident(s) related through blood, marriage or adoption to a host residence occupant, being no greater than 800 square feet in size, that has an independent wing or area that is self-supporting in terms of livable needs (i.e. unit includes a kitchen, bath, den and bedroom), but is dependent on utility infrastructure of the primary residence. Access to this wing or area may be obtained via one door to the outside and a second non-lockable door or passage way to the main portion of the host residence. Access is permitted to a garage area having no service door.


This has been a pretty controversial topic for us, also. Unlike bturk, we haven't resolved it yet. Our current regulations make a distinction between "guest quarters" - intended for family members and guests - and "caretaker's quarters" - intended for a caretaker or other employee. Neither are supposed to be rented as a separate dwelling unit, but that is almost impossible to enforce. In most residential districts, either one is a conditional use permit.

We are leaning toward creating an "accessory dwelling unit" category and scrapping the old "guest quarters" vs. "caretaker's quarters" distinction. I think that will be a little bit simpler. There still will be the problem of enforcing the no rental requirement, but it will be an improvement. We will probably still require a conditional use permit in most residential districts, although it will probably be a permitted use in our largest lot district (Rural Residential).

Surprisingly, we haven't heard the arguments about accessory dwelling units being a way to create affordable housing. We are a growing resort community, so most of the discussion has centered around density and the impacts of short-term rentals on noise, property values, etc. I'd be interested to hear how other resort communities are dealing with this issue.