CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield county could soon make it easier for grandparents, adult children, siblings — and yes, even in-laws — to move into accessory dwellings on single-family plots.

At a work session on March 21, county staff introduced a proposal to reform the approval process for so-called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as in-law suites, and make it simpler for residents to add them to their homes.

What separates an ADU from a guest bedroom is that the ADU — whether it’s a bonus space above a garage or a cottage in the backyard — has its own kitchen and bathroom, effectively making it an independent living space.

Under the current county code, anyone wanting to build one on their property has to go through an onerous rezoning process including repeated public hearings and a vote by the planning commission and board of supervisors.

Under a proposed revision to the county code now under consideration, residents would have the right to build them provided they notify the county — but they would face restrictions on how they can be built, and who can live in them.

“A situation where the ADU is being rented would be permissible, so long as those occupying the ADU are family members of the occupants of the primary dwelling,” a county official said.

Any resident of the ADU would have to be a family member, though planning commissioners noted that the definition of family under county code is flexible and could lead to confusion.

Anyone seeking to add an ADU would also need an additional parking spot on their property beyond what the underlying zoning requires. County staff noted that that requirement could often be met by existing driveways.

The size of the ADU would be restricted based on the size of the main house. (Courtesy of Chesterfield County)

ADUs would also only be allowed on lots of 12,000 square feet or more. The ADU itself is allowed to be at least 800 square feet, but can be up to 40% the size of the main house — whichever is larger.

“I like where we’re going with this, but I still think we have some work to do,” said commissioner Tommy Owens.

The board motioned to begin the code amendment process, but has not yet set dates for a public hearing on the change. Commissioners indicated those hearings would be set at their meeting next month.