Melissa Colombo: I Support ADUs for Future-Proofing Our Homes

Headshot of Melissa ColumboBy Melissa Columbo

Fred15: Tell us about yourself-what is your profession, and how long have you lived and worked in Fredericksburg?

I have lived in the City of Fredericksburg since 2002 and bought my 1930s bungalow in 2003. I am a licensed architect with extensive experience working in the city and its historic district. I also serve on the Board of the Directors for Fredericksburg Virginia Main Street.

Fred15: What are your specialties as an architect: residential, commercial, and what types of properties?

My work within the city includes both residential and commercial projects inside and outside the city’s historic district. Projects include: adaptive reuse, change of use designations, renovations, additions, tenant fit-outs, feasibility consultations and new construction. I regularly have to provide code analyses to determine if a client’s project is feasible within the parameters of zoning restrictions, as well as building code regulations. It’s a process I would describe as a dance within a Puzzle.

Fred15: In your experience working with homeowners and builders, do you believe there is demand for ADUs in Fredericksburg?

Yes. Over the last 10 years, and especially since Covid, more and more clients of all ages, family sizes and demographics are looking to future-proof their home. Allowing ADUs can help meet that demand.

Fred15: Why should homeowners who are considering building or renovating a home consider including an ADU?

There are many benefits to considering an ADU when designing a new home, addition, renovation or detached structure.

    • Aging in Place – Many of my clients are preparing for retirement and the ability to stay in their homes as long as possible as they age. We have a walkable city with easy access to parks, walking paths, shopping, restaurants, markets, etc. This infrastructure makes the city a desirable location for an aging population. An ADU would allow for this population to have on-site housing for in-home health care support, whether that be a third-party individual or an extended family member.
    • Multi-generational Family Living – With the rising costs of housing, as well as limited housing inventory (rental or purchase,) families are welcoming parents and adult children into their homes. An ADU would enable these families to provide independent living on or within an existing property. There is also an added benefit to a multi-generational home, ie a young family with children being in close proximity to a grandparent is beneficial to both the children and grandparents, as well as to potentially offset the cost of child care. While a grandparent or adult child could live within the primary home sharing common spaces (bathrooms, kitchen, etc,) the existence of an ADU allows for more independent living on the property or in the existing primary structure.
    • Supplemental Income – While many clients desire an ADU for the previously listed examples, their need may not be immediate. In the interim, the ADU could be utilized as a long-term rental unit which would provide much needed housing in our community. Per the city’s zoning, a ‘homestay’ (ie. VRBO, Airbnb) would also be allowed for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year. Both of these scenarios would provide supplemental income for the homeowner and tax revenue for the city. However, the current draft does not allow for a ‘homestay’ in a detached structure. I believe ‘homestays’ should also be allowed these detached structures.

Fred15:  Based on the language in the draft ADU ordinance and existing code, what kinds of ADU configurations might be available to property owners who wish to build one?

    • Renovation of existing detached accessory structure into an ADU
    • New detached accessory structure for ADU use
    • Existing primary structure with interior renovation to create an ADU within existing building footprint
    • Existing primary structure with an addition to include an ADU
    • New primary structure to include an ADU

Melissa Colombo is an architect (check her out at and a resident of Ward 2.

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