On Wednesday, the Mashpee Planning Board unanimously recommended approval of amendments to the zoning bylaw that will allow accessory dwelling units.
Most residents who spoke during the public hearing portion of Wednesday’s planning board meeting were in favor of the changes as well.
“As someone who is born and raised and wanted to remain on Cape Cod, housing is an issue that is very personal to me,” said Elana Doyle of Sunset Strip during the public hearing portion of the meeting.
“These units can be beneficial for the homeowners looking to create a new income stream to offset household costs, can help seniors to age in place, allow young individuals and families to remain on Cape Cod all while maintaining living standards and wastewater requirements,” Ms. Doyle said.
The changes to the zoning bylaw will be voted on at the pending Special Town Meeting on October 21.
If approved, the changes would allow for the development of accessory apartments, such as mother-in-law suites, and also would allow apartments in newly constructed or pre-existing detached structures on a property.
Homeowners will be able to rent out accessory dwelling units for extra income. The principal dwelling unit, however, must be occupied by the owner, according to the warrant. Property owners will not be able to move into the accessory dwelling unit while renting out the main home.
The accessory dwellings can have no more than two bedrooms and must meet all wastewater treatment requirements.
“You would require a building permit,” said Evan Lehrer, the town planner. “You need to have the septic capacity for the addition of additional bedrooms.”
Backers say the changes to the zoning bylaw are intended to create more affordable long-term housing.
Many residents spoke about the shortage of affordable housing throughout the Cape, citing examples of young professionals and families who had to move off-Cape because they couldn’t afford to live in town, causing in turn a shortage of employees for local businesses.
Katie Martin, a science teacher and real estate agent in Mashpee, said she sees firsthand the stress that is put on families to secure stable, year-round housing.
“I’m extremely worried that Mashpee is slowly going to become a secondary or seasonal home only location,” Ms. Martin said. “We need to come together as a community to support families and young professionals of cape cod who are barely scraping by with astronomical housing costs. This bylaw is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Lauren Kanzer of Riverview Avenue is also in favor of the accessory dwelling units, but suggested that the town look into loan programs to help homeowners create the accessory apartments.
“The only barrier I really see is that the cost of building dwelling units can be very high, so I encourage the town to look upon loan programs that other towns are using to help support really making this happen,” Ms. Kanzer said.
Mr. Lehrer mentioned a loan program from First Citizens Credit Union geared specifically to homeowners looking to construct accessory dwelling units.
“It seems like a pretty low bar for qualifying and provide a lot of value for individuals who may be don’t have the ability to pay for the construction in cash,” Mr. Lehrer said.
The amendments to the zoning by laws were previously recommended unanimously by the board of selectmen and the finance committee. The changes will be voted on at the town meeting on October 21.
“This is a great idea,” said Mike Ronhock of Sunset Circle. “This is going to be a positive for everybody, but especially the young families and the older populus.”