Aiken City Council is working to hammer out a definitive definition of dwelling unit:
"The other definition appliance dependent," Councilman Dick Dewar says. "If you have a refrigerator with a freezer it is, and without isn't, we don't want to get into that," he says.
If you're wondering why this is important to begin with:
"It's important because dwelling affects density and that affects property values," Dewar says.
That's a big concern for many people who live in Aiken.
"We have a responsibility to people who have purchased houses to preserve their property values," Dewar says.
But, we also heard multiple concerns from people who were scared about what this could mean for senior citizens: When facilities like these were built, the individual rooms were -not- considered dwelling units, thus a city cap on 12 units per acre didn't affect developers' abilities to cost effectively build senior living. But, with the proposed change, each place where people live that has a place to prepare food would be a dwelling unit. Thus, only 12 per acre would be allowed.
"If it's limited to 12 unit per acre density, that would drive up the cost of those services," Councilman Phillip Merry says.
And some are scared that would hurt seniors.
"You would see the lower and lower middle hurt most because new units couldn't be built at the density level required to make it affordable," he explains.
Other city council members in favor of the change say they care about those concerns:
"We are a community of senior citizens and as we get older we're going to need those," Dewar says. "We don't want to say to facility developers you're not welcome."
He says when it comes to building senior care that fits into Aiken, like Cumberland Village, they could make it work:
"My sense is if a project like that came to us and wanted to build, we would find a way to work with them," he says.
Some are still concerned about whether that would work for Aiken's seniors.
"If we did something that resulted in seniors having to move away when they needed that care, that wouldn't sit right with me," Merry says.
Dewar says he agrees, but believes the city will work those issues out at Monday night's second reading of the proposed definition change.
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