DUNEDIN — If the Fonz heard the conversation city officials had about accessible dwelling units, he'd probably give his classic thumbs-up of approval.
The fictional television character of the 1970s was mentioned by Commissioner Jeff Gow during a discussion Feb. 2 about the advantages of accessible dwelling units and other topics pertaining to their use for housing.
"Anybody growing up watching 'Happy Days' knows Fonzie lived above the garage," said Gow, who is a big fan of the use of accessible dwelling units.
An ADU is a small residence that shares a single-family lot with a larger primary dwelling unit.
Dunedin officials say ADUs can be part of a viable strategy to provide affordable housing opportunities in the community.
Unlike tiny houses, ADUs are compact but not tiny, so they’re considered more practical for individuals, couples and families seeking small, affordable housing in single-family neighborhoods.
City officials also believe that they have a reasonable and effective set of rules and regulations to encourage ADUs. However, based on feedback from the commission, the public and research, they developed a set of recommendations to encourage more of such housing.
Among city officials' recommendations pertaining to ADUs are:
• Change regulations to allow occupancy by individuals who are not immediate family members.
• Eliminate three-person maximum in an ADU and allow number of occupants to be determined by the housing code.
• Remove the requirement to execute and record the affidavit since it is very difficult to monitor and enforce.
Commissioner Deborah Kynes asked why staff would choose to have up to a six-person maximum occupancy in what is still a "very small space."
"To open up that opportunity for affordable housing, not necessarily the caregiver scenario, most people would be looking at potentially four people," said city Assistant Community Development Director Joe DiPasqua.
However, he added that if commissioners are uncomfortable with the six-person maximum occupancy as opposed to a maximum of three people, that's fine.
"It's certainly has worked up until now," he said.
A middle ground for occupancy requirements may be a maximum of four persons, DiPasqua said.
Commissioner Moe Freaney said commissioners need more information about where the ADUs are located now and where they can be established.
Commissioner John Tornga made similar comments about the occupancy level.
He also had concerns about the number of vehicles that could be on or around the property.
"It's always a big issue in communities," Tornga said.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski wants to have a second work session on ADUs, also addressing the discussion on desired occupancy levels.
"The common thread of what I saw here today is should it be six or should it be four?" Bujalski said. "I think we got a sense that it should be smaller than what you are proposing," she said.
Nevertheless, she said staff is doing great job on the issue and "it doesn't have to happen tomorrow."
Gow said he believes city officials will see an increase in demand for ADUs if non-family members are allowed in units.
Owners may want to rent a unit temporarily until parents are at the age they want to move into it, he said.
"I can build it now and use it for affordable housing or something like that until she gets here," Gow said.
In the past 10 years about 60 to 70 ADUS have been built in Dunedin. City officials say complaints have not been at the level to cause issues for code compliance.
Discussion will continue at the second workshop.
On the lighter side, whether Fonzie Fonzarelli had a kitchen was also debated.
That's a discussion for another day — or not.