Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Accessory apartment bylaw to go before Agawam City Council

Date: 10/27/2020

AGAWAM – An updated version of the Accessory Apartment Bylaw ordinance, which would allow Agawam residents to build accessory housing in the area for the city’s aging population, will be presented in front of the Agawam City Council in a Nov. 4 public hearing.

In a 4-0 vote, the planning board decided on Oct. 15, in a public hearing, to send a positive recommendation to the city council regarding the bylaw. According to Marc Strange, director of planning and community development, this means that the planning board is recommending that the city council adopt this ordinance.

“So the first draft we presented to the planning board was more expansive; it allowed for more occupants of the accessory apartment,” said Strange. “And along the way, the planning board has pared it down.”

The newest version of the ordinance “effectuates the original intent of the bylaw,” according to Strange, which was to expand housing options for Agawam’s aging population.

While this intent hasn’t changed, the amount of people who can occupy the accessory apartment has. According to the newest version of the ordinance, the apartments will only be “for the use of immediate family members of owner-occupied and primary residential single-family homes.” This will also include housing units for immediate family members with disabilities.

“I think the prudent approach on things like this are to present all options in a wider scope,” said Strange. “Some of the options for accessory apartment ordinances statewide are you could be as expansive as allowing them [the apartments] to be rented out and occupied by anyone.”

Most communities in the area want to preserve the neighborhoods as much as possible, according to Strange. “You want to make sure that you’re protecting neighbors while providing these additional housing options, particularly for seniors.”

The other major change brought forth to the city council during the Oct. 15 meeting was the qualifications of an accessory apartment. Reminder Publishing originally reported in February that there was concern about what type of detached units qualified as accessory apartments. The answer is now none, according to Strange.

“Any accessory apartment has to be either attached or within the existing structure,” said Strange.

Aside from highlighting these changes, the Nov. 4 hearing will also serve as an opportunity for the public to voice their opinions.

Councilor Dino Mercadante, who emphasized that he has no opinion on the matter at this time, said that there could be a number of issues raised during the public hearing.

“I’m sure there’s going to be multiple issues raised,” said Mercadante. “Obviously, enforcement is going to be critical, and if you’re looking at it from both sides, the need for affordable housing in the town of Agawam.”

Other concerns that may be raised are possible traffic problems such as a possible increase in traffic, the amount of cars that could be held in a single driveway, and how many accessory apartments will be included on each street in the city.

Mercadante believes that as a member of the city council, it’s important to listen to all of the facts on the subject before making any kind of decision.

“In every city and town, these things have a habit of morphing, and that’s why the town wants to get a handle on it, at least in my opinion,” said Mercadante. “But again, you have to weigh the concerns of each neighborhood versus the need for more apartments or units.”

As for the decision itself, Strange is hopeful that Nov. 4 will be the day that the council determines whether or not this bylaw should be passed.