P&Z Watch: Draft of Less Restrictive Reg Under Consideration to Encourage ADUs in all Zones

On Tuesday night the Greenwich Planning & Zoning commission discussed updates to the town’s Accessory Dwelling Unit regulation 6-99.

Greenwich already allows accessory dwelling units, as of right, as long as they are occupied by tenants who are senior (age 62+) or disabled, or affordable, meaning to people earning 80% or below of local state area median income. The elderly person can live either in the main house or the ADU, giving additional flexibility to the property owner.

Connecticut passed HB 6107 in 2021, allowing ADUs to be built in single-family houses as of right, meaning without a special permit or public hearing. That law, Connecticut Public Act 21-29, went into effect Jan 1, 2022.

But municipalities were allowed to opt-out of the act’s as-of-right ADU provision, and that is what Greenwich did in order to craft its own updated reg. (The RTM voted to approve Greenwich’s opt-out in Sept 2022). In October 2022 P&Z passed a moratorium of the existing Section 6-99.

On Tuesday the commission considered draft language that would create a broader opportunity for residents to add ADUs to their properties in all zones. The requirement that the ADU be either affordable or for elderly or disabled would be lifted. ADUs would be open at fair market rate to anyone the owner wishes to rent to.

The current ordinance for ADUs has resulted in fewer than 100 units in the past 40 years, and some may be disused, bringing the total to fewer.

There has been a lot of interest in Connecticut and across the country in making ADUs an as-of-right use.

With the draft language, the commission considered how ADUs could be added in a way that doesn’t alter existing streetscapes. Single family homes, including large ones in multi-acre zones, could effectively become-two families homes as a result of the update.

And while ADUs would be allowed in R-6 zones, existing two-families in R-6 would not be eligible to add an ADU.

P&Z director Patrick LaRow said ADUs offered the benefit of increasing housing supply and affordability, not only to renters, but for residents who own the property as well.

The draft has a scaled up model for detached units in the smaller zones, starting at 800 sq ft and possibly increasing to 1,000 ft.

There was consideration about allowing units larger than 1000 sq ft in the 4-acre zone, but not in R6 zones in places like Byram, Chickahominy and Cos Cob where some lots are undersized.

An ADU inside the main house would be the greater of 1,200 sq ft or 35% of the house area. So in a large house, your ADU could also be very large. It’s only the ADUs in accessory buildings that are limited to 800 Sq feet.

A property owner adding an ADU cannot exceed their FAR, and it must stay within required setbacks.

A key requirement is that the owner be required to reside on the property. That way it would not be possible to rent both the primary residence and the ADU.

For existing ADUs, the P&Z Dept sends out forms with affidavits on an annual basis to the property owner with an ADU to confirm they reside on the property.

The draft language for the revised reg has been submitted to WestCOG who have 35 days to review it and give feedback. From there P&Z would hold a public hearing for the language to be discussed as a text amendment to the existing reg. From there the moratorium would end with the adoption of the updated regulation.

During discussion the commissioners wondered about enforcement, if, for example a property with an ADU were sold and the new owner were to rent out both the primary unit and the ADU.

They wondered if a violation would even be flagged if no neighbors complained.

Commissioner Bob Barolak asked what was the point of a policy requiring a property owner to live in either the primary dwelling or the ADU.

“To try to reduce investment properties used as short term rentals,” Alban explained, adding “We’re trying to help the people who were unhappy about disturbances from short-term rentals,” she added. “Based on a review of web site listings, there seem to be a few hundred AirBnBs in town. Parties, noise and late night activity have been issues.”

Parking Requirements

One space per unit would be required for a one bedroom ADU but the spot cannot be a tandem spot in a driveway, per 6-154.

The draft language refers to, “At least one off street parking space on an appropriate solid surface dedicated to the ADU. If two or more bedrooms, more parking must be added.”

P&Z director Patrick LaRow said the challenge across the state has been complying with building codes.

“While we do want to be more liberal and offer greater opportunity, only time will tell how many ADUs are approved or applications received,” he said, adding that applicants frequently balked at the opportunity when they learned the cost.

The commission hopes to discuss the revised regulation as a final draft to vote on after they receive feedback Western Connecticut Council of Governments. There would be a public hearing.

Click here for the draft text of the revised amendment to 6-99 concerning ADUs.