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Posted on: April 4, 2018

Planning Board Zoning Articles for Town Meeting: Accessory Dwelling Units

Planning Board Zoning Articles For 2018 Town Meeting

Prepared by the Planning Board


In anticipation of the 2018 Town Meeting the Planning Board proposed ten potential Zoning Articles.  The Article on Accessory Dwelling Units was advanced as revised by the Planning Board with a vote of 4-1.  

What follows is a summary of the Zoning Article related to Accessory Dwelling Units.  If you have any questions you are invited to call the office of the Planning Board at (781) 741-1419 and speak to the Director of Community Planning during office hours.  

Zoning Article:  Accessory Dwelling Units

The intent of this Article is to permit Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) within a principal dwelling with a Special Permit A1 from the Board of Appeals.  

Consistent with the Master Plan Goals adopted March 20, 2017, the purpose of permitting accessory dwelling units in single-family dwellings is to:
a.Provide accessory dwelling units without adding to the number of buildings in the Town or substantially altering the appearance of the dwelling and for the purpose of enabling owners of single-family dwellings to share space and the burdens of homeownership with family members (as defined in this Section V-K) while also protecting the stability, property values and residential character of the surrounding neighborhood.
b.Provide housing units for family members with diverse housing needs including, without limitation, family members with mental and physical disabilities.
c.Enable the Town to monitor accessory dwelling unit construction for code compliance.
What is an accessory dwelling unit?
An “accessory dwelling unit” is a second self-contained dwelling unit within a single-family dwelling, which second dwelling unit is subordinate in size to the principal dwelling and otherwise complies with the provisions of this Section V-K.

How is family member defined?
For the purposes of this Section V-K, a “family member” shall be a person related to the owner by blood, adoption or marriage, and may also include domestic help and caregivers.

Background Information
Discussions about the need for ADUs and the interest in having regulations that permit ADUs have been taking place in Hingham for at least 20 years, if not longer.  The 2001 Master Plan specifically identifies ADUs within the housing section as a creative use or reuse of older homes in town.  The 2001 Master Plan also identifies a need for diversity of housing options in town, and a need to provide housing of all types to enable citizens of all ages to stay in Hingham.  

In response to the interest in permitting ADUs in Hingham, the Planning Board led a study committee that over the course of 14 meetings in 2014-2015 researched regulations governing accessory dwelling units in other communities and worked on drafting a by-law to permit them in Hingham.  Ultimately the 2015 draft by-law, which had provisions for ADUs in both the principal structure and in accessory structures, was not advanced to Town Meeting for the following reasons:  (1) the scope was very broad and while there was support for ADUs in the principal dwelling there was less support for ADUs in accessory buildings; (2) there were other questions regarding uniformity, single family conversions, and expansion of non-conforming accessory structures which were unrelated to, but sidetracked, the ADU discussion; and (3) the draft was not in a final form ready to be advanced to Town Meeting.

In March 2017 the Planning Board adopted revised Master Plan Goals & Objectives.  The following is an excerpt from the Housing section of the 2017 Master Plan Goals and Objectives:   Goal:  Encourage and maintain a mix of housing types in various locations throughout the town by supporting development that provides for households at all income levels. Objective:  Enact an accessory unit bylaw tailored to Hingham’s specific needs that will allow secondary units while respecting neighborhood character.

In August 2017 the Board of Selectmen identified ADUs as one of their priorities.  As a result, in September 2017 the Planning Board began discussions on ADUs with the goal of developing a by-law for 2018 Town Meeting.  This work effort began where the previous study committee’s efforts had left off and built upon that knowledge base.  

The Planning Board then held in over 10 hours of hearings on ADUs between September 2017 and February 2018 at which public comment was received, and the Board worked on revising the proposed zoning article language which was advanced by the Planning Board with a vote of 4 in favor and 1 opposed.   The proposed Article is limited in scope and includes many restrictions.  It allows ADUs only in the primary dwelling – not in garages, carriage houses, barns or other outbuildings.  It limits ADUs to use by family members only.  It is a carefully crafted, limited tool that allows our neighbors to make alterations to their homes that meet their changing family needs while including requirements that preserve the residential character of the Town and protect abutters.  The full text of the proposed article will be published in the warrant, and can be found on the Planning Board’s website.



Planning Board: Proposed By-Law Amendments
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