Weston Zoning commission rejects increasing accessory apartments' size

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

Weston Town Hall at 56 Norfield Road in Weston.

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WESTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to increase the accessory apartment size in town, stating such a regulation change needed to be viewed more holistically.

“My own personal view is I’d like to see us look at this comprehensively and not deal with one aspect,” Planning and Zoning Chair Kenneth Edgar said at a meeting Monday.

Currently, permitted accessory apartments are defined as apartments in a resident’s home and cannot exceed 800 feet.

Weston residents Joe and Lois Ryan looked to expand the square footage from 800 to 900 feet and exclude certain aspects, such as closets, bathrooms and storage rooms from that count, focusing only on “habitable space.” They introduced the proposal because they wanted to rent out spaces in their homes, but found the 800 square footage limiting

Several commissioners raised concerns about using “habitable space” as a measurement, as opposed to square footage.

Edgar said unlike square footage, which is not so easy to change, a resident could change the configuration of their house. He said he was not comfortable adopting habitable space as a measure.

“Enforcement would be an issue as to whether someone makes changes which makes changes to the habitable space,” he said. “We’re not in a position to go inspect housing on a periodic basis.”

The decision came after a public hearing this weekend where six people spoke, most in favor of the change.

Lois Ryan said accessory apartment square footage was last increased in 1989. She said residents hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic have turned to their biggest life investments — their homes — for economic relief. But current regulations limited what many could do.

“The bottom line is the Weston home owner has limited control over the property he or she owns with respect to the accessory apartments’ regulations since the restrictions are draconian and dated for the time we live,” she said.

She added there were many illegal apartments in town the commission doesn’t know about yet, but may come to learn if the proposal was passed and they didn’t have to hide anymore.

Gus Christensen, a brand new homeowner in town, said his family had moved out from New York City to the suburbs for more space and the quality of schools like others. He said although he was not yet familiar with the politics of the town the proposal was in line with what a new generation of homebuyers would look for.

“I do really firmly believe, and I’ve done a lot of work on this as well outside of Weston, that the next generation of homebuyers is very much in favor of this kind of change and the increase of diversity housing options this kind of change brings,” he said.

Helen De Kejizer, a Weston resident, said the town’s apartment regulation had not increased the size of space for a potential tenant in years. She said the proposal could lead to a diversity of housing options, and help some seniors afford to stay in town.

“There are a number of ways in which expansion of this space, and this is a very modest amount to me, is a reasonable way to approach that flexibility,” she said.

But Board of Finance Chair Steve Ezzes said he was concerned of the fiscal burden on the town if it created a situation where there’s no commiserate increase on taxes, but there is a commiserate increase on the costs of running the town — primarily the school system.

Ezzes said he was concerned of the possibility people would move into Weston on a transit basis to use the school system and then leave.

“I would just be cognizant if I were making decisions about what the fiscal burden of the town may or may not be when you’re making your ultimate decision,” he said. “I can certainly understand the desire to want to be able to rent out one’s accessory apartment, on the other hand in my case I’m looking at it from more of a holistic case as it relates to overall town expenses.”

Several commission members in making their decision said the topic needed to be discussed more.

Edgar said it was a valid question to ask if there should be an increase, but the commission will look to hopefully see the issue explored in an upcoming affordable housing study for the town.

“I think we should take our time and do it right,” he said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com