P&Z Watch: Text Amendment Aims to Encourage Elderly, Affordable Accessory Apartments

At Wednesday’s Planning & Zoning meeting, Town Planner Katie DeLuca introduced a text amendment intended to further entice residents to add accessory dwelling units – either elderly or affordable – within their single family homes.

There have been regulations on accessory apartments since the 1980s, but still there are only 100 of these units in town.

Greenwich has consistently had about 5% of its housing “affordable.

This is significant because Connecticut municipalities with less than 10% of their housing stock deemed affordable must allow affordable or mixed-income housing proposals to be constructed unless they can prove to the Superior Court that the rejection is necessary “to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other similar matters.”

This is where the State 8-30g statute comes in.

Municipalities with more than 10% affordable housing stock are exempt from 8-30g.

“We’re hoping these changes will prompt more people to come in with these units,” DeLuca said Thursday on WGCH. “We think they’re a wonderful thing for the community.”

The purpose of the text amendment is to encourage the variety of housing opportunities particularly for the elderly and those of moderate income looking for affordable rental housing, while at the same time preserving the look and feel of neighborhoods. Photo: P&Z meeting via Zoom on Sept 9, 2020

Key for a proposed accessory unit is that it does not alter the look of a single family house. For example, the commission said they would not want two front doors.

The impetus for the proposal was the recently approved POCD which includes these two objectives:

• Facilitate housing options that encourage seniors to stay in Greenwich (“aging-in-place”) and are designed for enjoyment of all.

• Support housing that is in keeping with the existing built environment, contributes to Town character, and is a more predictable product for both the neighborhood and developer.

Existing regulations for accessory apartments limited them to 700 sq ft. With this text amendment the accessory units will be limited to 1,200 sq ft, or 35% of the dwelling, whichever is greater. And the property must already be on the tax rolls for at least five years, (as opposed to being on the tax rolls back to 2009, which was how the reg was written before the proposed amendment.)

The regulation says the accessory apartment will have a room(s) for one family and contain a kitchen, bathroom with tub and/or shower, toilet and sink, and be clearly incidental and secondary to the primary unit so as to preserve the appearance the single family character of the dwelling and its neighborhood.

The owner of the house must reside either in the accessory unit or the primary dwelling.

The accessory unit shall be accessible from the primary dwelling by an operable door.

No additional curb cut will be allowed to serve the accessory unit, and there must be at least one off-street parking space on an appropriate solid surface, dedicated to the accessory dwelling unit.

Ground floor garage space in a dwelling may be converted to living space for an accessory apartment if there is the required, non-tandem, off-street parking on the property.

Conversion to an accessory dwelling unit is only eligible in a structure constructed within lawful setbacks in the RA-4, RA-2, RA-1, R-20, R-12, or R-7 zone, which has been listed with the Tax Assessor for five full years at the date of application.

The commissioners discussed retaining the prohibition against parking in the front yard.

Commissioners Dave Hardman and Nick Macri agreed that would take away from a single family residence look and feel.

“We’re trying to maintain a single family residence look and feel. When you start paving over the front yard, it’s just as egregious as if someone put in another door,” Macri said.

The commission voted to approve the text amendment. The only edit was to continue to forbid parking in a front yard.

See also:

P&Z Watch: Victory for Old Greenwich Scenic Loop Despite Holdout

P&Z Watch: GCDS Field Improvements Approved with Numerous Conditions