Chapter 18.34


18.34.000    Purpose.

18.34.010    Accessory dwelling units.

18.34.020    Requirements for A-ADUs and D-ADUs.

18.34.030    Parking requirements for all ADUs.

18.34.040    Attached accessory dwelling unit (A-ADU) requirements.

18.34.050    Detached accessory dwelling unit (D-ADU) requirements.

18.34.060    Existing illegal units.

18.34.070    Permitting and enforcement.

18.34.000 Purpose.

It is the purpose of this legislation to implement the policy provisions of the housing element of the city’s comprehensive plan as follows:

A.    By eliminating barriers to accessory dwelling units in single-family residential neighborhoods and provide for affordable housing.

B.    To provide homeowners with a means of obtaining rental income, companionship, security and services through tenants in either the accessory dwelling unit or principal unit of the single-family dwelling.

C.    To provide senior citizens with the ability to age in place and to facilitate the care of family members who are unable to live independently. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.010 Accessory dwelling units.

A.    An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a complete living unit that is secondary to a single-family home located on the same lot. ADUs can be attached as a separate unit within the existing home or an addition to the home, or detached as a separate structure on the lot.

B.    Attached Accessory Dwelling Unit (A-ADU). An attached accessory dwelling unit is an accessory dwelling unit that is added to or included within the principal unit.

C.    Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (D-ADU). A detached accessory dwelling unit is a freestanding accessory dwelling unit that is not attached or physically connected to the primary single-family dwelling unit. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.020 Requirements for A-ADUs and D-ADUs.

The following requirements apply to A-ADUs and D-ADUs:

A.    Locations Permitted. Attached and detached ADUs are permitted in all residential single-family zones (RS low, RS medium, and RS high), including residential planned unit developments, provided only one ADU is allowed per lot as an accessory use to a single-family home.

B.    Owner Occupancy. Either the principal dwelling unit or the ADU must be occupied by an owner of the property or an immediate family member of the property owner.

C.    Size and Scale. The ADU maximum size shall be no more than 50 percent of the square footage of the existing residence or 800 square feet, whichever is less. However, the Zoning Administrator may permit attached accessory dwelling units greater than the maximum size limit within existing structures when a denial of such an increase would result in an unreasonable division of interior space between the ADU and the primary dwelling unit.

D.    The ADU may not be segregated in ownership from the principal dwelling unit.

E.    Bedrooms. No more than one bedroom shall be located within the ADU. However, the Zoning Administrator may permit attached accessory dwelling units to exceed the bedroom limit within existing structures when a denial of such an increase would result in an unreasonable use of interior space between the ADU and the primary dwelling unit, such as when existing bedrooms within the proposed attached ADU would be required to be demolished or removed in order to obtain strict compliance with this section.

F.    The ADU is exempt from the density limitations of the underlying zone.

G.    The parcel may not contain more than one primary dwelling.

H.    Subdivision. The ADU shall not be subdivided or otherwise segregated in ownership from the principal dwelling unit except through subdivision pursuant to Chapter 17.12 FMC.

I.    The ADU must meet all land use requirements for single-family residences as outlined in Chapter 18.32 FMC.

J.    The ADU shall be designed to avoid doors and windows directly across from existing development.

K.    Where practical, the ADU should be located on the site in a manner which respects adjacent properties in order to minimize the disruption of privacy and outdoor activities in adjacent buildings.

L.    The exterior finish materials, trim, and roof pitch for the ADU must be similar in type, size, and placement material of the primary structure.

M.    The site plan shall provide open space and landscaping that are useful for both the ADU and the primary residence. Landscaping shall provide for the privacy and screening of adjacent properties.

N.    Utilities. Utilities servicing the existing site may require upgrades based on the project size. Any utilities installed to the site must be in compliance with Chapter 19.35 FMC, Utilities.

O.    Purchasers of homes with an ADU must register with the Community Development Department within 30 days of purchase. A covenant, approved by the Community Development Director, must be signed and recorded which specifies this requirement and the requirement for purchaser registration. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.030 Parking requirements for all ADUs.

A.    All single-family dwellings with an ADU shall meet the minimum parking requirements pursuant to FMC 18.76.070 (Table 2), and these spaces must be located on site.

B.    There shall be adequate parking spaces for parking associated with an ADU to enter and leave the property in a forward motion, unless demonstrated by the applicant to be unfeasible.

C.    If a parcel abuts an alley, parking shall be accessed from the alley except when the Community Development Director determines that alley access is impractical or environmentally constrained.

D.    Parking accessed from the public street or lane shall be limited to one driveway per street or lane with a maximum width of 20 feet. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.040 Attached accessory dwelling unit (A-ADU) requirements.

A.    Entrances. A-ADU entrances located on the front or street side of the residence shall be designed to appear as a secondary entrance and incidental in nature. For the purpose of this chapter, the “front street” shall be defined as the street with the address. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.050 Detached accessory dwelling unit (D-ADU) requirements.

In addition to all requirements listed in FMC 18.34.020 and 18.34.030, the following shall apply to a detached accessory dwelling unit:

A.    Both single-family residence and D-ADU entries should be oriented to the street, when practical.

B.    The applicant shall be required to design the size and proportions of the D-ADU structure to give the appearance that it is secondary to the primary structure on the site.

C.    A D-ADU may be combined with a garage or accessory building as defined by FMC 18.08.020.

D.    Location. Detached accessory dwelling units shall not be forward of the primary unit in relation to any public street.

E.    Height. Maximum building height must be 16 feet except that the height may be increased to 18 feet when it is necessary to match existing roof pitch of primary structure. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.060 Existing illegal units.

The owner of any accessory dwelling unit established prior to June 20, 2017, may submit application to the City to legally permit the existing unit pursuant to the provisions of this chapter. If application is made within 18 months from June 20, 2017, no penalty shall be imposed for the maintenance of the nonpermitted accessory dwelling unit. After such date and/or 30 days after denial of a permit for an accessory dwelling unit, the owner of any nonpermitted unit shall be subject to the penalties provided in Chapter 1.12 FMC.

A.    Nothing in this chapter shall require that the City permit existing ADUs that are determined to be dangerous. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)

18.34.070 Permitting and enforcement.

A.    Application. The property owner shall apply for an ADU permit with the Community Development Department. Application and submittal requirements shall be in accordance with Chapter 14.07 FMC.

B.    Applicable Codes. The accessory dwelling unit shall comply with all construction codes set forth in the Ferndale Development Standards and the latest adopted building code and any other applicable codes, except as provided in this chapter.

C.    Inspection. After receipt of a complete application and prior to approval of an ADU, the City shall inspect the property to confirm that all applicable requirements of this code and other codes are met.

D.    Recording Requirements – Permits. Prior to a request for final building inspection for an attached or detached accessory dwelling unit, the property owner shall file with the Whatcom County Auditor a declaration of restrictions containing a reference to the deed under which the property was acquired by the present owner and stating that:

1.    The ADU shall not be converted to a condominium or sold separately.

2.    The ADU is restricted to the approved size.

3.    The occupancy or use permit for the ADU shall be in effect only so long as either the main residence, or the accessory unit, is occupied by the property owner.

4.    The above declarations are binding upon any successor in ownership of the property; lack of compliance shall be cause for code enforcement and/or revoking the occupancy or use permit.

5.    The deed restrictions shall lapse upon removal of the ADU.

E.    Permit. Upon compliance with the provisions of this section, a permit for an accessory dwelling unit will be issued.

F.    Elimination/Expiration. Elimination of an accessory dwelling unit may be accomplished by the owner recording a certificate with the Whatcom County Auditor and Ferndale Community Development Department stating that the ADU no longer exists on the property, contingent on verification by the Ferndale Community Development Department.

G.    Variance. Variances to this chapter shall require variance approval as outlined in FMC 18.12.170.

H.    Violations. Any violation of any provision hereof is a violation under Chapter 1.12 FMC.

I.    Upon receiving the fiftieth application or on August 5, 2025, whichever occurs first, City staff will inform City Council in writing that the threshold for ceasing acceptance of applications has been met. After notifying Council that the threshold has been crossed, staff will place a discussion of the ADU regulations on an upcoming Council agenda or joint meeting with Planning Commission. Staff will prepare a report which includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

1.    ADU application and review process;

2.    Recommendations for revisions to ADU code section;

3.    Complaints received;

4.    Parking issues, if any;

5.    Design review;

6.    Height requirements;

7.    Site plan layout requirements;

8.    Number of bedrooms;

9.    Density issues, if any;

10.    Any other issues that have or have not materialized as a result of ADUs.

J.    Following the discussion described in subsection (I) of this section, the City Council will have the discretion to accept additional ADU applications, to remand the issue back to Planning Commission for additional modifications necessary to revise the ADU chapter, or to terminate the ADU chapter. (Ord. 2108 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019; Ord. 1995 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2017)


Code reviser’s note: Prior to Ord. 1995, Chapter 18.34 FMC, pertaining to single-family dwelling zones (large lot sizes RS 10.5 and 14.5), was added by Ord. 1400 and subsequently superseded by Ord. 1528. Current provisions regarding single-family dwelling zones can be found in Chapter 18.32 FMC.