WELLFLEET — Select board chair Michael DeVasto told the planning board at its recent hearing on zoning bylaw changes that the need to allow more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by right is personal for him. The select board has submitted a warrant article for the June 26 annual town meeting expanding their use.
DeVasto grew up in Wellfleet. When he returned to town because his father was sick, he said, he had nowhere to stay other than an uninsulated shed on his parents’ property. He and his wife eventually found an old accessory dwelling unit from the 1970s to rent for $850 per month.
Ultimately, they were able to purchase a house in town.
“We’re in a housing crisis,” he said. “There are no available rentals in Wellfleet. People are living in illegal spaces with hot plates, and the pandemic has accelerated this crisis.”
With former rental properties being sold, tenants are being driven out of Wellfleet, DeVasto said, creating a major obstacle for those who have shellfish grants and must remain in town to keep them.
Under the article sponsored by the select board, ADUs, attached or unattached to the main dwelling, would be allowed by right as long as they meet other town regulations along with state and federal laws. The units would have to be smaller than 1,200 square feet and be rented year-round.
“The ADU bylaw is about use,” DeVasto said. “Every property owner has the right to max out lot coverage.” The town’s other zoning laws would minimize any detriment to neighborhoods, he added.
“We currently have neighborhoods filled with empty houses, used as short-term rentals by right,” DeVasto said. “My question to the planning board and the town is whether year-round housing is more detrimental than short-term rental use, which we allow by right.”
A petitioned article that is essentially the same as the selectmen’s proposal is also on the upcoming town meeting warrant. The petitioners are members of various town committees whose focus is housing. They submitted it as a petition to ensure that town meeting voters would have a proposal to act on, in the event that the select board failed to submit one.
One of those petitioners, Sharon Rule-Agger, told the planning board that the differences between the two articles were not about substance, just word choice and paragraph order.
Discussion of the ADU article will continue at the June 2 planning board meeting. The board can’t change either the petitioned article or the select board’s version. It can only vote on whether to recommend the articles at town meeting.