Southington Town Council rejects state law making accessory rentals easier

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SOUTHINGTON — Town leaders voted Monday night to opt out of a state law that would have allowed accessory apartments in residential areas.

All nine Town Council members voted against opting in despite concerns by Democrats that the proposal wasn’t given enough consideration.

While Southington allows in-law apartments under certain circumstances with special permission from town planners, the state law would make the approval process easier and wouldn’t restrict such apartments to family members.

A state law addressing a host of zoning issues passed earlier this year allows towns to opt out and remain with their current zoning regulations regarding in-law apartments and additional buildings on a property.

All but one of the towns’ Planning and Zoning Commission members voted last week to opt out of the new state law.

Concerns over density

Accepting the change would have allowed residents to add a rental unit to properties that would otherwise be single-family, according to Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Bob Hammersley.

He urged the council to reject the law.

Mike DelSanto, a Republican councilor and former planning commission chairman, also opposed making the approval of accessory dwellings easier. He described it as a “slap in the face” to neighbors of property owners who could, under the proposed change, easily add a rental unit.

“They can just come in, apply, and make it so,” DelSanto said.

Priced out

The state law was developed with research from Desegregate CT, a non-profit focused on equitable and affordable land use policies. Allowing more multi-family living would help make suburban properties more affordable, according to proponents of the change.

Christina Volpe, a Democrat and the only planning commissioner to vote against opting out of the law, said it could allow for more creative living arrangements in Southington.

“Families don’t look like what they used to. Sometimes we’re not making the big bucks but we want to stay in town,” Volpe said.

Council Democrats said they wanted more time to consider the benefits and downsides to the new law rather than vote to scrap it Monday night.

“(Usually) we take some time, we hear a presentation, we take some time to digest it,” said Democrat Chris Palmieri, council minority leader. “I think it makes a little bit more sense to hold off on this.”

A Democratic motion to table the issue failed in a party-line vote.

jbuchanan@record-journal.com203-317-2230Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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