2012-10-11 / Front Page

Panel drafts accessory apartment ordinance


Following hours of discussion at recent meetings, and after examining related laws in municipalities similar to Jamestown, the Planning Commission has drafted an ordinance for accessory dwelling units. Now the panel will wait for the election to pass so the new Town Council can vote on whether or not to adopt the regulations.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “preserve and protect the family in Jamestown by enabling multiple generations of family members to live together and care for one another while maintaining a degree of privacy and individual dignity through separate dwelling units.”

The planning board has proposed that accessory dwelling units – sometimes called in-law apartments – can only be occupied by family members or caregivers to those living in the property’s primary space. To be considered an accessory unit, the apartment must include separate cooking and sanitary facilities.

The proposed ordinance outlines guidelines that must be in place in order for an application to be granted. First, the owner of a property must also be an occupant. If the owner splits time between Florida and Jamestown, for example, they are only allowed a temporary absence of three months away from the home.

If a property owner gets permission to build an accessory apartment, the addition’s appearance will have to be designed so that the structure still remains that of a one-family residence. The ordinance calls for no additional exterior entrances to be added. If an exterior entrance is required, then it should be located in the rear of the building, the draft states. Ideally, an interior connection between the units separated by a door would be present.

Also, the accessory apartment has to be at least 300 square feet, but can’t be more than 33 percent of the entire structure. Utilities, such as electricity, gas, oil, water and sewer, must be under one name.

As long as no exterior changes are proposed, the application process begins when plans are brought to the zoning officer. If all the guidelines are met and the application is in order, the zoning officer will then notify abutting property owners by mail. Abutters will have 10 days to offer a written objection. If no objections are raised, then the unit will be granted. If there are written objections, the application will be referred to the technical review committee.

All applications that propose exterior changes will have to be brought in front of the town planner and the technical review committee.

Owners of occupied accessory apartments will be required to file a yearly affidavit saying that they are continuing to meet all the guidelines set forth in the ordinance.

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