September 19, 2020

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How Zoning Rules Can Foment Increased Urban Density: The In-Law Suite

As urban infill becomes the latest wave of "smart" development, and as a boom generation of parents and grandparents transition to an unenviable life stage of less autonomy, counties and municipalities continue to wrangle with ways of dealing with these--and PLENTY of other--zoning bugaboos.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Land Use Litigator lives and works, the progessive City is working its way through the possibility of permitting standalone cottages on single-family residential parcels.  Dubbed by one publication as "granny flats", because "many families build them for older relatives", these one-bedroom "homes" would include plumbing, electricity, perhaps gas.

As with anything new, there are conflicting viewpoints.  Opinions range from claims that permitting these in Raleigh will "lead to urban blight" and return the City to "the middle class flight of the 1970s", to claims that progressive, creative cities like Seattle and Portland effectively use these backyard cottages to "increase downtown density and affordable housing".

Oh yeah, one more thing: apparently (though we have not verified), "attached dwelling units, often connected by no more than a breezeway, are allowed in Raleigh and also don't require owner occupancy."  So, the lesson, as always, is that a good lawyer can still get your mother-in-law to your backyard.

Copyright © 2020 Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume II, Number 338


About this Author

Michael C Thelen, Womble Carlyle, Real Estate Litigation Attorney, Entitlement Negotiations Lawyer

Mike represents myriad clients – from Fortune 500® companies to smaller, privately-owned organizations – in cross sections of business throughout the many stages of federal and state litigation.  From his years of practice in New York and North Carolina, Mike primarily has experience in the areas of land use, local/municipal government law and real estate litigation, having handled zoning, development agreement, land use planning, eminent domain and condemnation, construction, retail and commercial landlord-tenant, partnership dissolution, state law torts, and civil fraud matters, to list...