New zoning regulations allow detached apartments



June 21, 2022 | by Ted Craft

Condos detached from the main residence are now allowed in Weston, following changes to zoning regulations by the Planning and Zoning Commission on June 6.

The new regulations went into effect on June 20.

The commission had promised to take action this year after voting in December to withdraw state legislation requiring cities to allow separate housing units (ADUs) to state specifications. The law allows for opt-outs if a two-thirds majority of both the P&Z and Board of Selectmen vote. The Chosen Ones did so in January.

The approach decided by the commissioners over the course of the January-June meetings was admittedly cautious.

No one knows if the more expansive regulations will lead to an explosion – or even a few – of the new Abu Dhabi University construction. The commissioners seem to doubt that. The experience of neighboring towns indicates little or no impact, including the number of school-age children and the demand for services. At least for now.

So the commission decided to walk lightly, to allow some time to proceed with the decision, to see what would happen over the next two years, and to adapt, if necessary, in either direction: more lenient or more restrictive.

One apartment, one bedroom, height limits

Only one flat on a plot is allowed, and all applicable requirements for setback, land coverage, water and sewerage and building code apply.

New regulations require detached apartments to have only one bedroom, be shorter than the main residence, and be no more than 25 feet in height.

An exception to the height limit is if the apartment is built on top of an existing building such as a garage. Next, the maximum is a total height of 35 feet for the detached structure, garage plus apartment.

The commissioners instituted this ruling after residents noted, at a public hearing in May, that a 25-foot limit and lower height than the main residence would make it impossible to build an apartment over a detached garage if the home was a one-story ranch-style house.

Regulations prohibit additional curbs cuts for an extension unit, require safe means of entry and exit, and for basement apartments two separate exits and adequate ventilation must be provided.

Size limits and rental rules

New regulations increase the maximum size of apartments, whether detached or indoor. Previously, only indoor apartments were allowed, with up to 25 percent of the main dwelling area and no more than 800 square feet. Now, either way, the boundary is 30 percent of the floor area and 900 square feet.

The main dwelling or apartment must be occupied by a homeowner (by definition, the person who owns at least 25 percent of the land), and the house and apartment cannot be rented at the same time. The regulations also state that apartments cannot be rented for less than 90 days.

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