MIDDLETOWN – Willing to go along with the state’s efforts to boost affordable housing, but not to tie itself to state law, town officials opted out of Connecticut’s new rules for allowing accessory apartments after adopting instead its own regulations closely aligned with the state model.
On Monday, the Middletown Common Council approved the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to opt out of a new state law that aims to promote development of accessory dwelling units – so-called “in-law apartments” built on single-family lots.
The new state law, passed in 2021, allows accessory dwelling units – or ADUs – “as of right” alongside any single-family home, without requiring a public hearing or special permit. The push for ADUs is seen by housing advocates as a way to create “natural” affordable housing in a way that better fits many communities in Connecticut not used to dense housing like apartment buildings.
But towns and cities are allowed to opt out of the law by January, and many have – including towns aiming to keep ADUs from becoming a feature in their town, and cities like Stamford where residents are concerned about a lack of oversight over already existing ADUs.
In Middletown, Planning and Zoning commissioners explained their decision to opt out was not motivated by opposition to ADUs, and they adopted new regulations for ADUs that largely followed the state law.
But they said they didn’t want to be locked into the state law, in case there were changes they wanted to make later on. Middletown Councilor Ed McKeon said the same on Monday, pointing out that the approach gives the city the ability to adjust its regulations over time.
“It opens up the ability for anyone who wants to create an accessory apartment to do so on a much easier basis,” McKeon said. “The state law was written to encourage the creation of affordable housing [and encourage] desegregation, and now the city is in line with that as well.”
“So voting to opt out of the state law doesn’t mean we reject the philosophy of the state law, it just means we adopted it as part of our own city code,” McKeon said.
Middletown Planning Director Marek Kozikowski told council members before their meeting Monday that the ADU regulations the Planning and Zoning Commission approved last week were “very close” to the state law.
The only significant difference is that Middletown’s regulations allow each single-family property to have one accessory apartment, while the state law allows each property to have “at least” one, he said.
Kozikowski told the Planning and Zoning Commission last week that tax records show 109 ADUs in Middletown. The ADUs are more common in the higher-density residential zones, including 73 in the two most dense residential zones, he said.