Planning Board Finalizes ADU Zoning Bylaw Amendment

The Planning Board’s Tuesday meeting concluded a public hearing on and then edited a proposed zoning bylaw amendment to replace “accessory apartments” with “accessory dwelling units,”(ADUs) along with some additional changes.

The final version to be voted on at May’s town meeting will be presented as one amendment containing the state’s definition of an ADU and a separate amendment concerning a 100-square-foot bonus contingent on design and energy efficiency standards being met.

Town Counsel has stated that, as the proposed definition of an ADU does not match the state’s, a unified warrant article would need at least a two-thirds town meeting majority for approval.

This remains standard for all zoning amendments except for those that facilitate certain housing proposals, thanks to recent action by the Legislature.

Differences between the proposed definition and the state’s definition include rules around total size, the 100-square-foot bonus, universal design features, and higher energy-efficiency standards.

Planning Board member Shawn Hanegan proposed to split the proposal, one segment with the state’s definition of an ADU and a secondary amendment that contains the additional features that the board would like to see added.

The amendment with the state’s definition would need only a simple majority, while the other amendment would need two-thirds. Other members agreed with this plan.

Planning Board Chair Jeff Cohen later suggested adding two amendments, one focused on the 100-square-foot bonus contingent on design and energy efficiency and another for the total size relief for smaller homes.

The public hearing began with Rick Rosen, a member of the Council on Aging, voicing agreement with the plan for separate amendments. He noted that the board might want to consider postponing the amendment containing the 100-square-foot bonus to a later point in order to garner support for the change.

Armen Zildjian also spoke, noting some concerns that were brought up at the 2019 town meeting, at which the original amendment fell short of the two-thirds majority required at the time.

Zildjian, a candidate for Planning  Board in the March 13 town election, first asked how it could be ensured that the ADUs not be used as short-term rental properties.

Assistant Planning Director Catherine Perry pointed out that the amendment contains a provision requiring that short-term rentals need a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Zildjian also brought up the possibility of someone moving into their ADU and renting the main house out. Cohen noted that the board had discussed this and saw it as a possibility for a couple to downsize while remaining on their property.

Rosen commented that, due to the high cost of building an ADU, it would be unlikely that many would try such an unprofitable enterprise.

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