A warrant article designed to expand  Needham’s rules on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) met with a split outcome after a lengthy discussion at the annual Town Meeting last month.

These small apartments or housing units on the same lots as single-family homes are colloquially referred to as in-law apartments (when attached to the original dwelling) or granny flats (when detached). Under current Needham bylaws, detached ADUs are technically not allowed — technically, because a structure such as a detached garage could be occupied as long as it doesn’t have a stove, is building code compliant and also meets dimensional requirements such as size, setbacks, lot coverage, etc.

The original warrant item would have eased zoning requirements for both attached and detached ADUs. However, Town Meeting members supported an amendment that retained the less restrictive language for attached units, but removed all language pertaining to detached units regardless of setback.

The opposition to detached ADUs was based on multiple arguments about close proximity and possible loss of privacy for abutters, intrusiveness, and the opinion they are contrary to Needham’s “single-family character.”

The amendment passed by an overwhelming voice vote.

This change means attached ADUs can now be added “by right,” or without the prior requirement of going through the town’s special-permitting process. The regulations regarding detached ADUs will remain the same.

The article also eliminates many restrictions on who can occupy an ADU, and now allows the unit to be rented as long as the lease is for a minimum of six months.

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