Greenfield to allow in-law apartments

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/17/2016 11:44:32 PM

GREENFIELD — Residents will now be allowed to build in-law apartments on their property after Town Council passed an ordinance Wednesday night that permits accessory dwelling units in town.

The Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance makes it legal for residents to build up to 900-square-foot apartments either inside existing owner-occupied homes, as additions, as new detached structures or inside existing detached structures, like garages or carriage houses. Although the ordinance passed, some voiced concern during the meeting that it could be difficult to monitor.

Getting the ordinance to Town Council has been a lengthy process for the Planning Board, which withdrew its original proposal in April 2015 to give members time to do more research after it proved to be controversial.

Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner said although the process has taken longer than usual, it’s been worthwhile.

“It usually doesn’t take this long to write and pass a zoning ordinance in this town, but none of us on the board can complain about the process,” she said. “We think it’s better and stronger because of all the input from everyone, including the people who are less than thrilled with it.”

She added the board tried to accommodate those with concerns as much as possible when drafting the ordinance.

Resident Albert Norman spoke during the meeting to say that although he supports the concept of in-law apartments, he believes detached units could cause problems in town by potentially over-crowding lots and harming the character of existing neighborhoods. He recommended that the council amend the ordinance to remove detached structures, and require a minimum lot size of ¼-acre to have an ADU. Neither amendment was made during the meeting.

Norman also voiced concern that a section at the end of the ordinance, which gives the Planning Board the authority to waive any of the standards outlined in the ordinance, leaves the bylaw too open-ended. Prior to the vote, Council Vice President Isaac Mass made an amendment to clarify that language.

Council Treasurer Karen “Rudy” Renaud said she is not confident the building inspector will have time to properly enforce the ordinance, given that the town’s current ordinance on vacant nuisance properties has not been enforced.

“How can the Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance possibly be enforced when we don’t have the man and woman power to enforce it?” she said.

Renaud made a motion to table the vote, which did not pass.

At-large Councilor Mark Maloni said the building inspector’s capacity to enforce the ordinance is not a zoning issue and should not be treated as such.

“I think that it’s really important that we not use the capacity of regularity authority to shape the zoning we need to create,” he said.

At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts said she believes the ordinance is a good document, and commended the Planning Board for its work.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for families to stay together,” she said.

You can reach Aviva Luttrell at:
or: 413-772-0261, ext. 268

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