Milford zoning board to decide rules for accessory dwellings

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — The Planning and Zoning Board is taking some time to decide whether to opt out or allow the review of a state law allowing construction of accessory dwelling units on lots accompanying single-family homes.

A vote was tabled last week as the board decides whether to have the issue reviewed by its regulations subcommittee.

“The subcommittee could work on a regulation we can all agree on and adjust the one we have now,” said Commissioner Joseph Castignoli (D-1).

City Planner David Sulkis reported to the board that with the passage of PA 21-29, the state legislature enabled accessory apartments in residential districts as the state now defines it, “as a right” starting Jan. 1, 2023.

“The city can ‘opt out,’ by both a two-thirds vote of the Planning and Zoning Board and Board of Aldermen or amend regulations within the limitations by the legislation,” he said.

The state passed PA 21-29 because legislators are trying to achieve more housing, but it doesn't have to be affordable, added Sulkis.

“Their goal is to create more housing, in a state that’s viewed not to have enough housing to meet demand,” he said.

If the board decides to do nothing, it will cede authority to the statute. It will render the existing Milford ADU regulation null and void to the extent that they conflict with the statute, and permit all accessory apartments, as defined by the state, in single-family residential districts.

Chairman Jim Quish (D-3) pointed out that if the board decides to go with the state statute, it could lead to affordable housing, although not 8-30g.

“The two major differences between our local regulations and the state law are the ADU doesn’t need to be attached to the house, and it doesn’t need to be a blood relative living in the ADU,” he said. “I think what the state regulation is trying to do, in my mind, is it helps to build wealth for thousands of Milford families, who can now get help from relatives, or rent space from anyone else.”

Sulkis said that opting out of the state law would not conflict with Milford’s affordable housing plan.

“We already have accessory apartment regulations, whether or not you want to change those regulations in some way, that’s up to you,” he said. “Milford is sort of ahead of the curve because we have those regulations and many municipalities don’t.”

“This is basically turning a residential zone into a multi-family zone, guys,” said Commissioner Mark Zahariades (D-5). “I’m just saying, That’s exactly what is it doing here. Instead of building a garage, you can build a house on your property.”

Castignoli said he couldn’t support Milford following the state legislation because it would drastically change his neighborhood.

“Everybody in my neighborhood could put another house on their lot or two, and that’s not what I want,” he said. “The only problem is the attachment. It has to be attached. I’m OK with a non-blood relative living in the apartment, but it’s got to be part of the dwelling.”

The board can also amend its regulations, consistent with the limitations and standards allowed by the statute, to limit the ADU apartments, their size and use. The third option is to opt out, which would enable current regulations including the board’s existing accessory apartment regulations to remain in effect.

Prasad Satavalli, a member of All In For Milford, said the alliance was in favor of ADUs in Milford.

“Occupants do not need to be blood relatives of the homeowner, the homeowner may charge the occupant of the ADU a rent,” he said. “These provisions will give some relief in the housing crisis that we are seeing here.”

Therese Eke said she had two adult children who work full-time and cannot afford to live in Milford.

“It strikes me that this is the kind of thing that is going to make it possible for young people and older people to live someplace, save up some money and maybe buy a home,” she said.

Sulkis said if the board decided to not opt out, he would recommend the board create some standards, which are allowed in the statute.

“We could accomplish a lot if we would opt out of the statute and address the regulations that need to be changed individually,” said Commissioner Brian Kaligian (D-5). “If it’s important for somebody to have a non-relative, we can address that. If it is important for someone to have a non-attached dwelling unit we could address that, rather than turning it over to the state.”