"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Accessory Dwelling Unit Law Good for an Aging New Hampshire, Carroll County

In this weeks Carroll County Independent, it was reported that some towns in New Hampshire were struggling to amend their zoning ordinances to comply with a new state law that requires municipalities to allow Accessory Dwelling Units. The law goes into effect on June 1st, 2017.
New Hampshire is an aging state with low population growth and land-use regulations were not well-suited to address this trend. Migration into New Hampshire remains stagnant, due in part to high median housing prices. In addition, rental prices did not drop during the recession and the vacancy rate for year round rentals is only 2%. The industry standard is 5%.
The NH Senate addressed this with SB 146, finding that there is a “growing need for more diverse affordable housing opportunities” in New Hampshire. 

On March 16, 2016, Governor Hassan signed Senate Bill 146, New Hampshire’s Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law, which takes effect on June 1, 2017. Under the new law, an "accessory dwelling unit" is defined as a residential living unit that is within or attached to a single-family dwelling, and that provides independent living facilities for one or more persons, including provisions for sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel of land as the principal dwelling unit it accompanies.
The bill was approved by the NH House 188 YEA to 93 NO.  Of our three NH House legislators at the time, only one was there to vote, Glenn Cordelli, and he voted against this important legislation, Considering that the median age in Moultonboro is about 55, and Carroll County has the oldest median age in NH at 50, a no vote was not in our best interests. The opposition to the bill voted against this legislation because it supposedly decreased local control. Its a perfect example of ideology trumping common sense and what is in the best interest of Carroll County citizens. The legislation in reality actually increases local control and increases the ability of property owners to use their property. Under current zoning ordinances in Moultonboro, residential property owners do not have the "right" to convert their single family home to a mother-daughter unit for example. The ADU legislation grants by right the ability to do that and much more. 
There are safeguards  built into the legislation that ensure important municipal controls.

  • The ability to adopt conditional use or special exception requirements,
  • The ability to require the “look and feel” of single family homes
  • Incorporation of the accessory dwelling unit into the primary dwelling, and 
  • Sizing and setback regulations that address well-grounded concerns about
  • Municipalities may allow detached accessory dwelling units, but they are not required to do so
  • Allows municipalities to count qualifying accessory dwelling units toward their required fair share under the state’s workforce housing law.

In an article in the Concord Monitor shortly after the bill was passed, builder Paul Morin said that  We’ve been getting more and more inquires for accessory dwelling units, for in-laws or au-pair suites, for young people who are moving back home after college so they can get their arms around college debt . . . or empty-nesters. I was finding roughly 50 percent of the time, the ordinances were not allowing what my client, very reasonably, wanted to do,”

 According to the NH House Journal "A bipartisan subcommittee received substantive input from planning and zoning experts, municipal officials, and private industry representatives as well as several governing bodies. The resulting bill responds to overwhelming consumer demand for housing diversity and affordability, while at the same time, minimizing the potential for unintended consequences with careful wording. The bill allows accessory dwelling units to be established in the predominantly residential areas of all New Hampshire communities. This will help serve the needs of our state’s aging and disabled populations, and will help address the desire of our younger residents to remain here to live and work by providing more affordable housing options. 

Moultonboro is way ahead of the curve and already have an ordinance amendment (ADU Proposed ) , customized for our specific needs and which had a public hearing on November 9th. It will be on the ballot the second Tuesday in March and I urge voters to vote yes on this proposal.

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