Harwich Officials Continue to Work on Accessory Dwelling Bylaw

HARWICH – The town of Harwich is hoping the creation of accessory dwelling units could help alleviate some of its affordable housing issues.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit bylaw is being written with hopes of presenting it to voters at the next town meeting.

If passed, it would allow for an accessory apartment within an existing home without having to receive a special permit from the town.

“The idea is to have it, by right, meeting the same criteria as if it were a special permit so that when it is reviews by the building commissioner, and for that matter by the whole community development team, it would have to meet all these criteria,” said Charleen Greenhalgh, the town planner.

Units would be limited to one per existing single-family home with only one of the dwellings available for rental. The accessory apartment would not be allowed to be larger than half of the size of the primary residence. The size of the ADU cannot exceed 900 square feet and would not be allowed to have more than two bedrooms.

The minimum lot sizes for properties with an ADU would range from 15,000 to 40,000 square feet, depending on the zoning the property falls under.

Selectman Larry Ballantine said that certain areas of town, including East Harwich, would not be allowed to have the accessory apartments because the lot sizes are too small. He asked if accessory bedrooms could be added.

“I think we could do more to be more flexible in adding accessory apartments,” Ballantine said. “I’d push the planning board to look at being as flexible as we can within that criteria.”

Greenhalgh said that request would fall under the purview of the Board of Health, as the size minimums depend on the availability of sewering.

“We certainly can look at the zoning part of that to possibly alleviate the need for 40,000 square feet for an accessory apartment,” she said. “But it is really the number of bedrooms is dictated through the board of health and not through zoning.”

Town Administrator Christopher Clark said the bylaw will make progress towards the goal of the town and its board of selectmen to create more affordable housing.

Greenhalgh said the bylaw will continue to be tweaked so that it will receive support when it heads before town meeting voters.

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