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Planning Board Discusses ADU Approvals

The Marblehead Planning Board met on Wednesday afternoon, September 21, 2022,  to discuss a draft bylaw change that would allow for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), often called in-law apartments, to be constructed in Marblehead homes. The proposal would need to be approved at Town Meeting in May of 2023.


In attendance were Chair Bob Schaeffner, members Barton Hyte and Ed Nilsson, and Town Planner Becky Curran Cutting. 


Cutting began by providing the Board with an overview of the ordinance currently in place in Salem, Massachusetts, which she used as a template for the Marblehead Board to consider in drafting a potential change to the bylaws. Several questions arose during the discussion, including whether the approval process should be limited to single family homes, what requirements would be put in place in order for permits to be issued, how violations should be dealt with, whether there should be a limit on rent that can be charged, and, if there is a limit, how it would be enforced. In Salem, for example, rental rates for ADUs are limited to a maximum of 70 percent of fair market value. Cutting noted that, if Marblehead adopts similar restrictions as are in place in Salem, she would expect an estimated twelve ADU permit approvals per year. 


Additional discussion surrounded the issue of the rental rate limitation, with Schaeffner asking whether it would be “worth it” for a homeowner to undertake the cost of construction given the limit on rent that could be collected. Cutting responded by reminding the Board that holding down the rental price was a high priority based on public feedback, in particular from the Fair Housing Committee. Hyte added that he supported ADUs for elderly parents and family members.


The drafting of the potential bylaw change relating to ADUs is an ongoing process, and the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4, 2022, at 9:00am on Zoom. 


Editor's Note: Writer Jenn Schaeffner is married to Planning Board Chair Bob Schaeffner.