January 31, 2023

The Needham Channel

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TM to Mull 3 Cars “By-Right”


Aired January 12, 2023.

The Planning Board discussed whether three car garages and accessory dwelling units should be allowed by right.

reported by Yuxiao Yuan
At its meeting on January 3rd, the Planning Board discussed the potential zoning amendment proposals that they want to bring in front of town meeting in May, including allowing three-car garages by right and lifting certain limitations for building accessory dwelling units.

Under the current zoning, bylaw residents living in the Single Residence B area who wish to build a three-car garage have to apply for a special permit through the town Zoning Board of Appeals, which consists of five members appointed by the Select Board.

According to a letter the board chair Jon Schneider sent to the Planning Board, between 2016 to 2018, the Zoning Board of Appeals only denied one out of 17 three-car garage applications in Single Residence B. Schneider says in the letter, a three-car garage was quite normal for the size of houses, allowed those zoning districts, and called the permitting process ‘a burden on homeowners’.

He also spoke at the Planning Board meeting, stressing limiting the garage space cannot prevent large houses, which, as a totality, is regulated by dimensional limitations such like lot coverage and floor/area ratio. “From our point of view on the ZBA, we have no right to let people build a bigger structure than what they’re allowed to do under the zoning bylaw. And when we’re having these hearings, it literally comes down to will there be a garage door or siding on a regular door on some structure that people are building of right. I can’t conceive of how we would come to a conclusion that has a material adverse effect on the surrounding properties. So I don’t see how we can deny these, and I don’t know what we’re doing having special permit hearings over them.”

Due to aesthetic concerns, Planning Board Vice Chair Jeanne McKnight proposed a special permitting for garages that faced the front of the house unless they meet additional setback requirements. Other board members split their opinions on this recommendation. Said chair Adam Block, “I think we’re kind of micromanaging too much design. I would just–If we’re going to allow a three-car garage, let’s allow a three-car garage.”

He continued,” I understand, you know, the desire to have a little bit of a setback from the building, from the facade of the building, but there are certainly instances where it’s not able, you’re not able to have a side garage and it disadvantages those properties.” With respect to the accessory dwelling units, the board discussed the possibility of allowing such structures by right, and broadening certain requirements to improve affordable housing in town.


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