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Backyard houses get OK from La Crosse city council, but parking proposals bring mixed reactions

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They’re called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, and after two months of looking into the supplemental properties, they will now be allowed in La Crosse.

By a 12-0 vote , with one member abstaining, the La Crosse city council passed Thursday an ordinance to permit the backyard houses, which can now be fixed to have water and sewer.

The idea was debated by the council since late last year, after it voted to put off approval for two months, after some residents expressed concerns over how many of the ADUs might be built and who would live in them.

The buildings, also called granny flats and in-law houses, would be small houses, mainly in backyards, kept by the owners of a larger house nearby.

The goal is to provide more housing in La Crosse for people with lower incomes, who might not be able to afford bigger residences.

Council member Rebecca Schwarz said her own family wanted to provide a small house in La Crosse for her mother-in-law several years ago.

“At that time, it wasn’t an option,” Schwarz told the council Thursday, “and she is very much an independent person, but we also help her a lot.”

She said that if an ADU was an option at the time, “our ability to help her stay independent and also care for her would have been just so much easier.”

In other business, the council had two different parking proposals to vote on Thursday night. Neither plan was approved.

Council member Jennifer Trost said the central city has far more parking spaces now than are needed at peak times, declaring that over 9,100 spaces are available for the general downtown area.

“Between the hours of 10 and 4, they are 42 to 45 percent full,” Trost said, “so there is no need for this parking downtown, and it goes against our climate action plan, our comprehensive plan, our downtown plan, and the LAPC plans.”

The Jay Street lot has been empty since 2011, when a fire destroyed the Optical Fashions store and apartments on that site.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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