Category Archives: Planning Board

Are Tiny Houses a Part of the Solution to our Affordable Housing Problem?

The more I think about this Tiny House movement, the more I think we need to consider it as part of our housing equation. Last year I posted the Nantucket By-law. Now I have been following the discussion out of Hadley.

Here are a few links that might be of interest:

House of the Week: Sarah Hastings’ Tiny House in Hadley

Hadley ZBA allows Sarah Hastings to stay in tiny house pending Town Meeting vote on new zoning

Help Sarah Stay in Hadley: Support for Rhizhome Tiny House

On Facebook

And on the web

Why all this information on one person’s housing issue? Well it personalizes it. Helps to see it from another persons point of view. Below is the proposed Hadley Zoning By-law. It is a bit more involved than the Nantucket one. I think it reflects the fact it is by a petitioner trying to convince a doubting audience, whereas the Nantucket proposal came from the town leaders.

Dennis has a bit more experience with smaller homes through our cottages, motels converted to housing under our affordable housing by-law and a couple of cottage colony conversions under the affordable housing by-law. We also have two provisions for accessory dwellings, one for family and one for affordable housing. However, none of these take us to where Nantucket is, or Hadley may be heading. I think it is time we take this discussion to the next level.

And, if you are one of our summer residents from Hadley, consider voting for what is presently Article 32 on your May Town Meeting Warrant.

The Hadley Tiny House Zoning Proposal:

Article 32 (Zoning Article – Submitted by Petition)

Chapter ZB. Zoning ByLaw

SECTION XXVI. ACCESSORY Apartments and Backyard Cottages

An accessory apartment, or in-law apartment, is a self-contained housing unit incorporated within a single-family dwelling that is a subordinate part of the single-family dwelling. A backyard cottage is a self-contained housing unit that is detached from a single-family dwelling that is a subordinate part of the single-family property. Accessory apartments and backyard cottages must comply with the criteria below:

§26.1. Purpose.

The intent of permitting accessory apartments is to:


Provide older homeowners with a means of obtaining rental income, companionship, security and services and thereby to enable them to stay more comfortably in homes and neighborhoods they might otherwise be forced to leave.


Add to the variety of rental housing available to serve households which might otherwise have difficulty finding housing.


Develop housing units in single-family neighborhoods that are appropriate for households at a variety of stages in their lifecycle.


Protect stability, property values, and the single-family residential character of a neighborhood by ensuring that all accessory apartments are installed only in owner occupied houses and that all backyard cottages are installed on owner occupied properties.


To provide housing units for persons with disabilities.

§ 26.2. Use restrictions.

The installation of an accessory apartment or a backyard cottage shall require a special permit only when all of the following conditions are satisfied. The Planning Board shall be the special permit granting authority for installation of an accessory apartment within an existing or new owner-occupied, single-family. The Planning Board shall be the special permit granting authority for installing a backyard cottage to an existing single-family property.


The Board of Health has approved compliance with Title 5 of the State Environmental Code, 310 CMR 15, and all other issues within its jurisdiction.

[Amended 5-5-2011 ATM by Art. 18]


The apartment or backyard cottage will be a complete, separate housekeeping unit containing both kitchen and bath.


Only one accessory apartment or backyard cottage may be created within a single-family property. A single-family home may not have both an accessory apartment and a backyard cottage.


The special permit is automatically revoked if an owner no longer lives on the premises. “Owner” is taken to mean the individual or individuals whose name(s) appear(s) on the deed as owner and one or more of whom reside on the premises.


An accessory apartment or backyard cottage is allowed under a special permit issued by the Planning Board. The permit will expire after one year and every three years thereafter. The Planning Board may reissue the permit if all conditions continue to be met.:

a) For accessory apartments: A site plan which shows all interior and exterior changes to the building.

b) For backyard cottages: A site plan which shows all interior and exterior features, and appropriate setbacks.


Site plan approval conforms to the Zoning Bylaw, including but not limited to Section VIII, §§ 8.1.3, through, and


The gross floor area of an accessory apartment (including any additions) shall not be greater than 900 square feet. The gross floor area of a backyard cottage shall not be greater than 410 square feet and must comply with Massachusetts building, plumbing, health, and electrical codes.


Once an accessory apartment has been added to a single-family residence, the accessory apartment shall ever be enlarged beyond the 900 square feet allowed by this bylaw. Once a backyard cottage has been added to a single family property, the Planning Board must review and grant permission for any proposed alterations in size or footprint.


An accessory apartment may not be occupied by more than two adults plus related children. Any guests of the occupants may not stay longer than 14 days in any three-month period. If the owner lives in the smaller apartment, the main residence may not be occupied by more than two adults and related children. A backyard cottage may not be occupied by more than two people.


An accessory apartment or backyard cottage may not be sublet. An accessory apartment or backyard cottage cannot be occupied except under lease that includes a provision against excessive noise or disturbance of the neighborhood. The lease shall also state the apartment or backyard cottage cannot be sublet.


Sufficient parking must be available for use by the owner-occupant(s) and tenants to avoid on-street parking.


The design and room sizes of the apartment must conform to all applicable standards in the Massachusetts health, building and other codes.


Special permits issued under this section shall specify that the owner must occupy one of the dwelling units. Special permit and the notarized letters required in §§ 26.2.14 and 26.2.15 below must be recorded in the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds or Land Court, as appropriate, in the chain of title to the property, with documentation of the recording provided to the Building Inspector prior to the occupancy of the accessory apartment or backyard cottage.


Prior to issuance of a permit, the owner(s) must send a notarized letter to the Building Inspector stating that the owner will occupy one of the dwelling units on the premises as the owner’s permanent/primary residence, except for bona fide temporary absences not to exceed three months.


When a structure which has received a permit for an accessory apartment or backyard cottage is sold, the new owner(s) in order to continue to exercise the permit, must, within 30 days of the sale, submit a notarized letter to the Building Inspector stating that he (they) will occupy one of the dwelling units on the premises as his (their) primary residence. This statement shall be listed as a condition on any permits which are issued under this section.


The Planning Board may adopt regulations necessary to fulfill the intent of this bylaw.


Backyard cottages must be a permanent structure or as defined in this section:

a) Comply with all zoning setbacks for the underlying district.

b) Be installed with a foundation.

c) Be one story tall with a maximum footprint of 410 square feet.

d) Is designed and built to look like a conventional building structure.

§ 26.3. Enforcement and penalties.


Notice of violation. When the Zoning Enforcement officer determines that an activity is not being carried out in accordance with the requirements of this bylaw, the officer shall

issue a written notice of violation to the owner of the property. The notice of violation shall contain:

The name and address of the owner applicant.

The address or description of the building, structure, or land upon which the violation is occurring.

A statement specifying the nature of the violation.


Noncriminal disposition. Any person who violates any provision of this bylaw, or the terms or conditions in any permit or order prescribed or issued thereunder, shall be subject to the Town of Hadley noncriminal disposition procedure set forth in the § 6.1 of the Zoning Bylaw. The Building Inspector shall be the enforcing entity. The penalty for the violation shall be $100 per day for days one through 30, $200 per day for days 31 through 60, and $300 per day for days 61 and over. Each day or part thereof that such violation occurs or continues shall constitute a separate offence.

The invalidity of any section or provision of this bylaw shall not invalidate any other section or provision thereof


Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan Public Forum

The Dennis Planning Board will hold a Public Forum on the Draft Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan on Monday March 21st at 6:30 pm in the Stone Hearing Room at Dennis Town Hall 685 Route 134, South Dennis MA.

The plan can be found here and here.

The purpose of this plan is to fulfill the federal regulations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Mitigation Planning. All cities and towns are required to adopt local multiple-hazard mitigation plans in order to remain eligible for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant funds (available after a disaster is declared) and to be eligible for other federal hazard mitigation funds. The plan first adopted in 2011, and in need of being updated in five year intervals, provides a process for the Town of Dennis to accomplish the following:

• Identify risks

• Assess the town’s vulnerability

• Reduce future damages

• Meet community needs

• Promote public participation

• Increase funding eligibility

• Provide a guide post for disaster recovery

• Promote cooperation

• Make funding available for initiatives that would otherwise not be available.

• Support pre-disaster and post-disaster decision making efforts in times of crisis.

• Educate residents and officials on vulnerable areas.

• Connect hazard mitigation planning to community planning and the Dennis Local Comprehensive Plan where possible.

Over the course of the past five years the town has been guided by the 2011 plan, and through its implementation (flood map updates, pursuing flood mitigation grants, vegetation management on town properties, etc.) the town has produced a continuous feedback loop on the various aspects of this plan. Town residents turned out en mass for discussions on flood concerns, the Barrier Beach Management Advisory Committee has received continuous feedback on coastal erosion concerns. And, a town-wide survey was conducted to guide the final crafting of this document.

Staff will present an overview of the document to the Planning Board as a means of soliciting final comments on the MHM Plan. It is our goal to start the state and federal review and approval process in the next few weeks.


The Future of Unlikely Places – Granola Shotgun

The Future of Unlikely Places

Can I interest you in Route 28? We are looking at zoning between the two Village Centers to attract a new population to this stretch. Maybe a less restrictive set of regulations promoting infill and flexible use is just what we need.

Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan Update Available for Review

DENNIS – The town of Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan needs to be updated and is now available for review. The town is seeking public comments on the plan through November 27. “This keep…

Source: Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan Update Available for Review

Draft Dennis MA Open Space And Recreation Plan 2015 Update – Public Review

The Town of Dennis is pleased to announce the Town of Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan 2015 Update is now available for review. The town is seeking comments between now and November 27, 2015 on the plan.

There will be a Community Forum on the draft document on November 9, 2015 at 7 pm at the Dennis Senior Center. Members of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission, Beach Commission, Recreation Commission Board of Selectmen and Waterways Committee will be present. Staff will present the plan at that meeting and be present to listen to comments and concerns, and answer questions.

A list of comments will be included in the final draft of the report that gets submitted to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The Plan is available for review at the following locations:

Dennis MA Open Space And Recreation Plan 2015 Update Blog 

In pdf format HERE 

Or you can request a paper copy from the Dennis Planning Department:

Daniel Fortier, Town Planner
Town of Dennis
485 Main Street, P.O. Box 2060
South Dennis MA 02660

Or by email from

Comments will be accepted through November 27, 2015 either directly through the blog, or the addresses found above.

From Park City Utah: Coffee talks to focus on planning and zoning

I did a little of this with Dennis Port and West Dennis, it might be time to revive these discussions around town.

Coffee talks to focus on planning and zoning