Vol. IV No. 7 4/1/2023
Notes from the Planning Board, March 7, Hybrid meeting
- Kate Fletcher Chair
- Patrick White, Chair of SB
- Wayne Slosek
- Carl Sprague
- Lis Wheeler
- Nancy Socha
- Marie Raftery
- Gary Pitney
- Attendance via Zoom (16) and others in room, named if they speak
- Public Hearing to consider the proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) bylaw. Fletcher opened the hearing and read the rules. All comments to the chair, no cross talk, speak to the point and with civility.
- First questions from the PB to White, the proposer of the bylaw. No questions
- First public comment, from Peter Strauss was in favor of ADUs but wanted to amend the language — only long-term rentals in ADUs or short term when owners present and not limited to primary homeowners. White was asked to comment and said Peter mis-stated intent — the intent was for primary residents to defray costs so that old could stay in their homes and young could buy into Stockbridge by helping with affordability.
- Mark Mills, on the AHT, was in favor and saw ADUs as adding to affordable housing stock in Town.
- Josh Peyron asked, "how do you figure short-term rentals will help?" White — helps folks stay in their homes as costs rise or afford to buy a home and defray costs.
- Marie Raftery wanted second homeowners to have the same rights to be fair. Slosek agreed and thought it was discrimination. Chair asked that loaded words like discrimination not be used. White explained necessary to allow one rental on a property at a time and the other be owner occupied otherwise can become attractive as an investment and commercialize Stockbridge.
- Slosek asked about enforcement. White explained enforced by Building Inspector, letters demanding compliance followed by fines. Also, there are GoGov and Granicus digital programs that track occupancy. TC added rentals can be tracked through Airbnb and other online rental software.
- Patty Caya supports ADUs but opposes language — must allow second homeowners same rights as primary.
- White discussed changing population — older and part-time residents rising — lack of young families who are 5x more likely to buy in less expensive surrounding towns. We lack fire fighters, police all commute here from other towns as do Town Office workers. We spent $50,000 for a consultant and put his report on the shelf — a report that predicted this as a function of market forces and suggested Stockbridge had to intervene to give full time and younger residents a competitive advantage. Should act upon reports not pay for them and then just put them on a shelf.
- Slosek thought Stockbridge would have more ADUs if allowed second homeowners to build them because second homeowners have more money to invest in housing availability — but Slosek does not want them to make it into a business.
- Peter Ungaro via Zoom wanted to change zoning bylaws to make sure there was no restriction on type of ownership — everything the same for primary and second homeowners.
- Brandi Page asked about Title 5 (septic requirements) when as ADU is added. Septics systems based on number of bed and bathrooms may have to be enlarged if ADU added
- Chair asked those interested to work on enforcement and continued hearing until March 21 meeting.
- Chair opened Public Hearing to consider Residential Inclusionary Development Bylaw
- Chair asked proposer (White) to answer questions from the PB
- Slosek asked: is this only for Cottage Era Estates? No. What is the intent? To raise money for affordable housing. Sprague asked: is the necessity to sell at affordable prices a condition in perpetuity? No generally for 25 years.
- Slosek: thought this was involving developers in building affordable housing, and he wanted Town to do it. White said developer has choice to build affordable housing or pay-in for someone else to build elsewhere — not in their development.
- Steve Shatz said, as a lawyer, thought wording was not as good as might be but could be fixed
- Josh Peyron wondered if real problem was Town zoning laws?
- Chair asked White, Raftery, and Shatz to work on wording and continued the Public Hearing until the 21st.
- Chair opened Public Hearing on Sign Bylaw
- Someone via Zoom wanted a "carve out" Homeowners' Associations so they would not have to follow in future or replace current "custom" signs on which they spent lots of money. Town Counsel explained laws are not retroactive. Chair followed up and said although "grandfathered" is not the expression used anymore, the signs are "preexisting-nonconforming" and exempt.
- Vote to send sign bylaw to SB with recommendation to place on Town Meeting Warrant passed.
Editor's note: ADU and Zoning bylaws differ in at least one important way — in 2021 to facilitate passage of ADU bylaws, MA Housing Choice Legislation removed the necessity for a super-majority (2/3) vote required for all other zoning bylaw changes. Also, in other MA municipalities, ADUs are limited to full-time residents. Seen by the Commonwealth as a way to create affordable housing, augment income for folks to stay in their primary houses, and ease monthly carrying costs for new primary house purchasers, MA facilitated passage by reducing the vote to a simple majority.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne