By Brenda Crowell
Supplemental suites for family members have been clearly defined thanks to Article 17 on the warrant for Milford’s Annual Town Meeting held on May 23. The article spelled out requirements for such suites and passed by a two-thirds majority.
“This will improve the somewhat vague requirements currently in the zoning by-laws for supplemental apartments, and as it was written, this has zero effect to any single-family homes,” said Planning Board Chairman Patrick Kennelly.
The updated guidelines for supplemental suites are spelled out in a new section, 3.19, of the Zoning By-Laws, and are intended to prevent homeowners from turning residences with an in-law suite or similar accommodation into duplexes.
“For quite some time, we’ve experienced the need to clarify and define this situation for a supplemental suite or in-law apartment,” said Board of Health and Select Board member Paul Mazzuchelli. “I’ve seen where these situations can be a gateway for homeowners to convert a single-family home to a two- and even a three-family home. At one time, illegal conversions were epidemic in the town of Milford.”
Supplemental suites may be occupied by a maximum of two people, at least one of whom must be a grandparent, parent, sibling, or child of the owner-occupant of the single-family dwelling. They must be an integral part of the original residence, and no dwelling may have more than one such suite.
The suites may consist of one bedroom, one bathroom, one kitchen, and one other non-bedroom room. They may be a maximum of 720 square feet in area, may not have separate utilities from the primary residence, and may not have direct access to the outside; they may only be accessed through the primary residence.
The lack of a dedicated entrance or exit was an issue for some Town Meeting voters.
“I’m concerned about the fact that there’s access only from the inside of the residence,” said attorney Lauren Wilton of Precinct 5. “I thought fire codes required methods of egress, plus I’m worried that you could have impeded access and that could be in violation of ADA requirements.”
“The reason why we’re not showing an exterior door is not in violation of any building codes, because obviously the context of this requires you to fulfill any specific building codes,” Kennelly explained. “What this is actually showing is that it is a true supplemental apartment, that it cannot be converted over to a two-family and therefore rented out.”
The explanation left some voters still unconvinced. Martha White, of Precinct 4, moved to amend the article by deleting subsection 3.19.2, which specified that there is to be no direct outside access, and renumbering the rest of the subsections accordingly.
“Many of these proposals make perfect sense to me, but not this particular section as it would require the resident of the supplemental suite to traipse through the home of their family members to reach their own home, thus diminishing the independence of the supplemental suite owners and the privacy of the homeowners,” White said.
Reno DeLuzio, Chair of the Town Meeting Study and Improvement Committee, agreed, noting that other subsections provided ample provisions to ensure that the suites could not eventually be used to convert single-family dwellings into duplexes.
“Affidavits have to be presented and renewed every year that the occupants are related to the owner, and therefore I see no reason why 3.19.2 cannot be deleted,” DeLuzio said. “It also appears to me that it is a safety factor that every homeowner should have at least two entrances to the house, and there’s nothing wrong with having three.”
White’s motion to amend the article was defeated, 88-45.