‘Accessory Apartment’ Ordinance Withdrawn, to be Considered during Plan of Conservation and Development Discussions

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Town of West Hartford will be conducting ‘thematic meetings’ over the next several weeks as the process of updating the Plan of Conservation and Development continues, and allowing accessory apartments in homes located in single-family zones will be part of the discussion.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Town Council was set to hold a public hearing Tuesday evening and had scheduled a vote on a proposed ordinance that would permit accessory apartments in residences in located in areas zoned for single-family homes, but the ordinance has been withdrawn.

While the public hearing for “An Ordinance Permitting Accessory Apartments in One-Family Residence Districts” is still on the schedule of town meetings, the hearing will be opened and immediately closed without any presentation or comment, and the Council will not be voting on the matter.

“The Town Plan & Zoning Commission (TPZ) said that the ordinance should instead be considered as part of the Plan of Conservation and Development discussions,” said Council member Ben Wenograd, who along with Dallas Dodge sponsored the proposed ordinance. The ordinance had been discussed for several months by the Council’s Community Planning and Physical Services Committee, which Wenograd chairs.

At its meeting on Jan. 7, TPZ reviewed the ordinance language and issued a denial, citing in part that the proposed ordinance – which essentially would have allowed for “in-law apartments” with separate entrances and kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms to be included in single-family homes – was too permissive. While the ordinance contained restrictions that included the size of the accessory apartments relative to the size of the existing home and lot, it did not restrict the number of bedrooms or provide strict limitations on the type of permitted occupancy.

In the denial, TPZ also noted that “as a whole, the ordinance represents a significant town wide impact effectively changing all single-family zoning districts into limited two-family districts.”

TPZ recommended that the matter be incorporated into ongoing discussions taking place as the town updates the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). The TPZ is the ultimate author of that document.

“The Plan of Conservation and Development is a very important policy document for the town,” Town Manager Matt Hart said. “It’s our roadmap for the future of the community.”

The PODC is a document that serves as a vision statement, a roadmap, and a set of guiding principles used for zoning decisions. Connecticut General Statutesrequire all municipalities to either prepare or amend – and adopt – a POCD at least every 10 years in order to be eligible for discretionary state funding, and West Hartford’s existing Plan is for the 10-year period from 2009-2019.

Hart said that it’s important for policymakers that the updated POCD really reflect the vision of what’s important to the community as a whole – and that includes whether or not accessory apartments will present a desired housing option to expand the town’s existing housing stock.

“We are really seeking input and engagement,” Hart said.

The Town of West Hartford is in the process of updating its 10-year POCD, and has been soliciting feedback through an online survey. In October, a planning workshop, facilitated by the town’s consultant on the project, Fitzgerald and Halliday, Inc., was held at Town Hall affording the opportunity for additional public input.

The online survey remains open and can be accessed along with additional information on the project website. It is not necessary to live in West Hartford to complete the survey, and responses will be taken seriously and will be factored into the POCD. Click here to complete the survey.

The Town of West Hartford will also be holding four upcoming “thematic meetings” on various components of the POCD. The public is invited to attend as many as possible. The meeting dates/times and topics are:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 30, 6-8 p.m., Town Hall Room 400 – Environment & Sustainability
  • Thursday, Jan. 31, 6-8 p.m., Town Hall Room 400 – Economic Development
  • Wednesday, Feb. 6, 6-8 p.m., Town Hall Room 217 – Housing, Facilities & Cultural Resources
  • Thursday, Feb. 7, 6-8 p.m., Town Hall Room 400 – Transportation & Infrastructure

“We want to hear from you,” Hart said.

Town Planner Todd Dumais said previously that the goal will be to have a draft of the new POCD ready in early 2019, at which point there will be a public hearing on the Plan. He is hopeful that the Town Council will adopt it in March or April of 2019.

To review the existing POCD, click here.

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