Detached ADUs require special permit once again



Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2020 4:30:23 PM
Modified: 11/19/2020 4:30:12 PM

GREENFIELD — The City Council has voted to restore the special permitting process for detached accessory dwelling units, better known as ADUs or in-law apartments.

In a vote of 10-1 on Wednesday night, with Precinct 5 Councilor Tim Dolan voting “no” and Precinct 8 Councilor Douglas Mayo and Vice President Otis Wheeler of Precinct 7 abstaining, the 13-member board restored the requirement that had been in place until July, when the council removed it, voting to allow ADUs “by right.”

“This has been a contentious issue,” President Ashli Stempel-Rae said at about 10:40 p.m., around the time of the vote.

One of the reasons previously offered for wanting to make the process as easy as possible was the lack of housing, affordable or otherwise, in Greenfield.

Stempel-Rae said she doesn’t believe ADUs, as they are called, are the “silver bullet” for affordable housing because, if they were, everyone would be building them — so far, only three have been built since the ordinance went into effect several years ago. She would like the city to explore and discuss the issue of housing, though.

This past summer, 50 people presented the city with a petition to restore the requirement of a special permit for detached ADUs, because they said they believe neighbors should have a say in what is built within their sight and what might affect properties and their values.

“I am gratified that the City Council voted 10-to-1 to restore the special permit requirement for detached accessory dwelling units,” Greenfield resident Al Norman said. “This is an important protection for neighbors that gives them the right to be involved and actively engaged in the process.”

Several councilors, including Ed Jarvis in Precinct 1 and Ginny DeSorgher in Precinct 3, said they had received numerous emails and phone calls from constituents expressing their concerns over neighbors being able to build a second home on their property without any type of permitting process or avenue for neighbors to express their concerns. They said they would change their votes, and they did.

Dolan and Wheeler brought the proposal to the City Council. Dolan said he believes creating more housing is very important, especially accessible and affordable housing, which the city is in desperate need of, so the process should be easier for people who wish to build.

“We should put the public good ahead of special interests,” Dolan said, referring to those who want a say in a neighbor’s decision to build an ADU.

“I regret this has been so contentious,” Wheeler said and continued by saying he believes there would be “plenty of protection” without requiring a special permit.

In August 2016, the council passed an ADU ordinance that made it legal for residents to build up to 900-square-foot apartments either inside existing owner-occupied homes as additions, as detached structures or inside existing detached structures, such as garages or carriage houses. However, they needed a special permit to do so, which allowed abutters an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Those who wish to build a detached ADU on their property will now have to go before the Planning Board to acquire a special permit. During that process, neighbors will be notified and have the opportunity to speak their concerns and ask questions.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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