New London fails to pass state secondary suite legislation

Dec. 22—NEW LONDON — City Council this week, in a 5-2 vote, chose not to pass the state’s secondary suite legislation because time is running out to make a decision.

Accessory apartments, or accessory dwellings, are small residential units – such as garage apartments or “mother-in-law’s suites” – attached to or detached from a house. Public act. 21-29, went into effect Jan. 1 and permits secondary suites wherever residential uses are permitted without a special permit or public hearing.

Municipalities can choose to “opt out” of the law until January 1, 2023.

The opt-out would allow town and city planning and zoning commissions to retain or modify existing regulations.

Before the decision was made, several people spoke about the issue in public comments.

Barry Levine, chairman of the city’s planning and zoning commission, reminded council that the zoning board had opted out and hoped the council would do so as well. He referred councilors to documents he authored that compared local and state regulations and listed possible changes to current city regulations.

Among the differences is that city regulations require the owner of the residence with a secondary suite to reside in one of the units, which the state does not. State regulations also do not require the unit to have an exterior door, be attached to the main structure of the property, and have more than one parking space while the city does.

Local attorney Matt Greene spoke up and said he’s seen a lot of confusion from the public about state law. He said it was not affordable housing.

“To make it affordable, you’d have to put a restriction on the deed for 10 years at a below-market rate… Nobody’s going to do that,” Greene said, adding that the city needed to step back to promote homeownership. the property.

In his report, Mayor Michael Passero said city regulations are close to state regulations, referencing Levine’s document. He said if the city didn’t opt ​​out, it would be stuck with state law.

Passero said failure to withdraw would remove landlord occupation in the city and attract investors and Airbnbs.

“If we work to change the regulations, we can still stay in control,” Passero said, adding that the owner-occupancy requirement is not expected to change.

The general consensus among councilors to opt out was to maintain local control and home ownership, but many also spoke of seeing changes to current regulations.

Councilwoman Alma Nartatez said she would have liked to see some proposed changes before the ruling, but Levine’s chart was clear and concise. She said there should be more leeway with parking requirements.

Councilor John Satti said he plans to vote yes to the opt-out because he believes in local control.

“I hope the Planning and Zoning Commission doesn’t think the current language fits the city,” Satti said. “We have a lot of low-income housing to accommodate and seniors. If we change, we can do that.”

Councilors Akil Peck and James Burke voted not to step down.

Peck said Monday he understands the Airbnbs fear, but at some point the city will have to deal with it as a coastal destination.

Burke spoke out last month in favor of the public act and said he was very proud of the city’s delegation to the General Assembly and Representatives Christine Conley, Joe de la Cruz and Anthony Nolan all voted in favor of the legislation.

Nolan said on Tuesday he believes in home ownership and also believes people should have a say in their homes “without all the hoops.” He said it doesn’t give people that opportunity, but he looks forward to seeing how planning and zoning will bring changes.

Nolan said he heard no backlash from voters when the case was in Hartford.

“The mayor and I disagreed on this one,” he said.

Resident Frida Berrigan, who spoke at the public comments, said she was attracted to the state regulations because they made it easier to complete secondary suites, saving residents the process and extra expense of go through the zoning board.

Berrigan said she’s fine with the city stepping away if its bylaws change to make secondary suites more accessible.

“What worries me is that regulations like this are in the book, but no one is using them,” she said.

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