Barnstable MA proposed ADU regulation, zoning changes to add housing units

Housing Secretary Mike Kennealy recently visited Hyannis to celebrate the increase in the number of housing units the village has seen over the past year.

Kennealy joined state and city officials, and Robert Brennan, president of CapeBuilt Development and board member of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, in opening newly renovated apartments above the 255 Main Street.

Then putting on helmets they went around The sea captain’s line, the development of 46 Brennan units in phase 1 which has a waiting list of over 100 applicants. After the visit, they walked along Main Street, shaking hands with traders and restaurateurs along the way.

Housing Secretary Mike Keenealy, center, walks Hyannis Main Street with Rob Brennan, Elizabeth Wurfbain, Representative Kip Diggs, Senator Julian Cyr and Rick Penn.

The celebratory tone of the day marked progress in the quest to resolve Cape Town’s rental housing shortage. And that provides a context for the city council’s discussion from July 15 at 7 p.m. on a draft Auxiliary Housing Units (ADU) ordinance. The settlement is one of the many tools the city is considering to increase the production and availability of housing in Cape Town’s largest city.

The intention behind the authorization of ADU de droit is to increase the number of homes available for year-round rental while remaining within current limits of wastewater capacity, according to the city’s website.

What does the ADU draft ordinance contain?

The proposed ordinance does not limit who an ADU can be leased to, but requires that ADUs be leased for at least one year. Barnstable’s planning council voted last week to recommend that this be reduced to six months to accommodate snowbirds.

As currently drafted, an ADU can only be used as a rental, except that the property owner can live in the ADU while renting out the primary accommodation. A DSU can be part of an existing main dwelling or be in a detached building. All withdrawal and Title 5 regulations still apply.

The number of rooms in an ADU would be limited to two, and the proposed ordinance limits the occupancy of an ADU to two adults (over 18). Additional adult occupants may be permitted by a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

The size of an ADU is limited to 900 square feet, or 50% of the living area of ​​the main dwelling, whichever is smaller. An owner can apply to the ZBA for a special permit for an ADU that exceeds these size limits.

The ordinance does not propose a minimum lot area requirement specific to DSUs, but any new construction is required to comply with setback requirements and sewer regulations.

Short-term rental proposal unpopular, ADUs gain ground

The city spent more than two years evaluating whether to regulate short-term rentals as another way to increase housing stock, but talks stalled. Residents fear that investors will buy multiple properties and create hotel-like environments in neighborhoods, destroying the character of Barnstable villages.

ADU supporters present the additional flexibility that ADUs would offer residents. However, opponents like Priscilla Jones of West Barnstable say the ADU statutes “are sometimes well intentioned but could end up over-building our towns and cities like Florida.”

“You know this will lead to investors buying properties for rent for the minimum 12 month lease (required by Barnstable) in order to generate a really good income,” Jones said. “So the main house can become a business, just another way to make money in Cape Town, (which is) too good to be turned into another tourist land.”

CapeBuilt Development President Rob Brennan, center, and Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta walk among the modular housing units under construction at Sea Captains Row on Pleasant Street, Hyannis.  Brennan was the developer of the Heritage Sands project at Dennis Port, which included 63 beachfront homes along Nantucket Sound.

In Jones’ view, Barnstable should not require citizens to fully accept ADUs on every lot when the issue of short-term leasing (STR) is still a matter of great concern.

“The average Barnstable resident needs a say in accepting this massive zoning change and getting STRs and ADU bylaw on the ballot,” she said.

Cape Cod suffers from severe shortage of rental housing

Brennan quotes a recent New York Times study ranks Cape Town 4th on a list of places people are moving to escape the pandemic, a trend he says is exacerbating the region’s housing crisis.

“ADUs are an important tool that I think the city is rightly considering making available,” said Brennan. “City council is looking at housing at every point on the spectrum and putting new tools on the table to enable nonprofits and private developers to help the city meet its housing production goals.

Barnstable and state officials pose with Main Street merchants during Housing Secretary of State Mike Kennealy's visit to Hyannis in June.  22, 2021.

“The city, the state, the developers and the lenders need to work together,” said Brennan. “Barnstable has made great strides in the past few years. People have these meaningful, sometimes difficult, conversations about how to find balance and meet needs while maintaining character. If housing becomes unavailable for the people we depend on to create a lot of it. character ”, then Cape Town will continue to suffer.

For these reasons, Elizabeth Jenkins, director of Barnstable’s planning and development department, said her staff are also focusing on modernizing the Hyannis Growth Incentive Zone, or GIZ, originally established in 2005.

Rooted in community outreach and data, and in partnership with the Cape Cod Commission, the modernization began to boost housing production in downtown Hyannis through a unit-per-acre zoning approach.

The result has been a patchwork of lot sizes and an extensive regulatory process that creates a barrier for upscale housing, redevelopment of historic properties and reuse of mixed-use commercial properties, Jenkins said.

New technologies have made it possible to upload illustrations and specifications (called form-based code) so that residents can see a multidimensional visual presentation of a development project.This could help produce the kind of development residents are comfortable with, she told city council.

Jenkin County is proposing a consolidation of downtown Hyannis neighborhoods.

The boundaries haven’t changed dramatically, but the Main Street and Barnstable Road district, as well as the adjacent east and west districts are being upgraded with updated dimensional standards for what can be built to allow for increased density and a streamlined review process, she said.

These efforts dovetail with the Massachusetts Legislature’s adoption of the Transformative Development Initiative in 2019 – which supports economic growth in key “Gateway Town” neighborhoods, including the area around Main Street in Hyannis – and the Housing Choice bill passed in 2020.

Barnstable officials to explain proposed zoning changes at forum

“The idea is to stimulate development and investment in existing developed areas that have infrastructure, density, and commercial and social activity – schools and libraries – and focus investment here, ”Jenkins said. “We plan to dive much deeper into all of thethese subjects with (residents) in the coming weeks. “

The proposed zoning ordinance, its goals, as well as illustrations and maps are posted on the city’s website, Jenkins said. This will allow residents to ask questions. At the same time, direct mailing to all GIZ owners is planned; anda public forum is tentatively scheduled for July 22.

Ribbon cut at 255 Main Street for CapeBuilt Development's renovated Furman Building.  From left to right are Senator Julian Cyr, Rep. Kip Diggs, CapeBuilt President, Rob Brennan, Housing Sec.  Mike Kennealy, Dorothy Savarese, CEO of CC5, and Deb Krau, President of the Greater Hyannis Civic Association.

City officials plan to schedule virtual office hours this month to discuss the proposed zoning changes one-on-one in more detail with residents who have questions. City staff will contact civic and business associations by August, when the changes are expected to be submitted to city council.

In addition, the Planning and Development Department will analyze the downtown traffic network this fall to try to find ways to make traffic more efficient and promote multimodal access to pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles, Jenkins said.

Paula Schnepp, deputy chairman of Barnstable City Council and executive director of the Sandwich Housing Authority for the past 12 years, said hundreds of existing units under Barnstable Affordable Apartment Accessories Program are essentially ADUs.

“Now is the time to really commit to an option that really makes sense,” Schnepp said by phone Friday. “The focus is on housing all year round. It’s really about making the process easier.”

Schnepp said advisers have received broadly supportive feedback on the proposed ADU order, and that there is still room for debate on the details – for example, whether the two units can be rented simultaneously.

“In Wellfleet, they just spent it with the one provided”, she said, adding that the order proposed by Barnstable “is worded in such a way that there is no possibility that these units are short-term rentals.”

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