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Afton tackles multi-generational living at City Council workshop

Afton City Council is looking at possibly embracing the "multi-generational living" mentality.

Council members discussed the possibility of allowing "mother-in law" or guest apartments during a workshop on Jan. 14 and at its regular meeting on Jan. 15.

"I've always believed that we have to allow people to have multi-generational living," City Council Member Bill Palmquist said.

The topic of "mother-in law" apartments came out of discussions regarding the definitions and uses of principal and accessory structures.

Even though Afton's code currently allows for manufactured homes to be used as a temporary living unit for the care of infirmed family members and duplexes are allowed in the rural residential district on lots of 10 acres or more, neither adequately fits with the idea of "multi-generational or guest accommodations" as City Council and Planning Commission has discussed.

Whereas the manufactured home option limits the use only to infirm family members, the duplex options allows for the ability to have two separate living units, separate entrances and the ability to rent.

During discussions, Afton Planning Commission reviewed several definitions and uses associated with non-rental guest apartments.

Questions from commission

Commissioners decided they required further direction from City Council so they presented the following questions to council members:

• Is it important that the only means of ingress and egress is from within the principal structure?

• Could it be acceptable to have a second entrance, either for handicapped access purposes or for emergency access purposes?

• Is the council concerned about ensuring there are no visible indications of a guest apartment?

• Is the council concerned about preventing rental uses?

• Should a minimum lot size be required for a guest apartment? If so, is there a range within which the Planning Commission should focus its discussions?

• Are there specific needs the council wants to address through the guest apartment use or another option?

• What are the council's key concerns regarding the guest apartment use?

City Council direction

City Council had the bulk of its discussion during the Jan. 14 workshop.

All City Council members, minus Peg Nolz, who was absent, were in support of allowing guest apartments, however members indicated they were strongly opposed to allowing for rental apartments.

"If we allow for rental that would affect our density," Mayor Pat Snyder said. "That's the main concern."

City Council agreed with Planning Commission that the best way to prevent rentals would be to have the only access to the apartments through the main residence.

"I think it's nice if it's not accessed from outside," City Council Member Randy Nelson said. "It seems like it invites rental.

"If they have to come through your kitchen, you're not going to rent it out."

Snyder mirrored Nelson's comments.

"I can't imagine how we could control (rentals) if we did it any other way," she said.

Regarding other questions that Planning Commission posed, council members said they would allow for handicap or emergency access, they do not feel that a minim lot size is required and they want to minimize visual impacts.

"I just don't want to be able to tell from the street," Palmquist said.

Even though allowing for guest apartments could potentially be opening the city up for rentals, Palmquist said, he feels that having something in place is better than nothing since more and more people are embracing multi-generational living.

"I think the benefits outweigh the risks," he said. "There will always be someone who doesn't play by the rules, but I'm glad we have language for those who are playing by the rules."

City Council directed Planning Commission to work on drafting language to allow for non-rental guest apartments with the desired conditions.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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