Restore special permit for Accessory Dwelling Units

Published: 9/3/2020 4:29:28 PM

Recently the City Council amended the ordinance dealing with Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The most controversial issue is detached ADUs. A detached ADU is a second stand-alone home, up to 900 square feet on any lot regardless of size. Formerly these projects required a special permit, but now they may be built “by right.”

This change removed all protections from neighbors. Abutters and neighbors will no longer be notified of these projects, nor will there be any public hearing to discuss the project, or an opportunity to make any compromises.

All that is required now is a site plan review by the Planning Department. A site plan review is a public meeting and neighbors or abutters may attend virtually, if they know about it. Also, if one attends the review, there is no part of the review that invites public comment. So you may not even know about the project until the bulldozer shows up some morning and starts excavating a mere 10 feet from your property line.These ADUs will change the character of your neighborhood and devalue abutter’s property.

Another change is that the property being developed no longer has to be owner-occupied. Do we want multiple dwellings on a property owned by someone who, say, lives in Springfield or out of state? History has shown that this is a bad idea.

I feel that the special permit requirement should be restored for these reasons. Most cities and towns require one. These are major projects and there should be room for discussion. Don’t take away the only protection that neighbors have. Allow the Planning Board to do its job and weigh the merits and demerits of each project.

One councilor stated that it’s no one’s business what a neighbor does on their property as long as it’s legal. If that’s the case, why do we have an ordinance about how many junk cars you can have on your property, or trash or an overgrown landscape? Because they are eyesores and detract from the value of a neighborhood. Well, an ADU might be an eyesore to some.

Patrick J. Devlin is a Greenfield resident.


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