HARVARD — At its Jan. 30 meeting the Planning Board discussed four potential bylaw changes, including several that may become warrant articles for the next annual town meeting.
Since the board did not have a quorum, it could not vote on the items, but this did not prevent discussion among attending residents.
The bylaw change proposal that received the most attention was the in-law apartment bylaw. The board plans to use this bylaw to address affordable housing issues in Harvard.
Preliminary bylaw revision documents were available at the meeting, which outlined most of the changes proposed thus far.
The first change board Chairman Mary Essary spoke of was to the bylaw’s name.
“The current title, I believe, is misleading,” said Essary. Instead of calling them in-law apartments, she thought they should be referred to as auxiliary apartments.
The name in-law apartment originated from the expected use. It was to create an apartment out of existing space in a single-family residence for the use of an aging parent.
“There has been an ongoing debate in this town since this bylaw was introduced,” said Essary.
It was the board’s intention to use this bylaw to create affordable housing out of existing housing units instead of building new ones to give residents more housing options, she pointed out.
Another major concern the board hopes to address with the bylaw is the growth Harvard will incur by building more houses to meet state affordable housing requirements.
Harvard needs 600 units of affordable housing to meet the state requirement of 25 percent, said board member Kara Minar.
“That is a tremendous amount of growth, and you have to think, ‘Do you want to do that through tracks of condos?’” asked Minar.
Resident David Peterson made a presentation about how growth that could be caused by the creation of affordable housing under Chapter 40B. Peterson was invited to the meeting to present the findings of his computer model projecting the effects of various affordable housing options.
Current 40B developments typically include about one-third affordable housing. The remainder is priced at the current market rate. Peterson found that developments that were 100 percent affordable would put Harvard at 10 percent high-density housing and only increased taxes by 5 percent.
The best option Peterson found through his computer model was to build affordable apartments, with all of the units counting as affordable. This model also had 10 percent high-density housing, no tax increases and a steady growth rate instead of a spike in growth.
The board intends to have a revised in-law apartment bylaw ready for their next meeting using the input they received. They also took some time to address their remaining proposed bylaw changes.
The board reviewed a request from the Harvard Green Trustees to change the subdivision’s zoning from commercial to residential. Several residents of Harvard Green attended the meeting to represent the trustees.
Because of the comprehensive permit that created the subdivision, commercial use could only occur if spot-zoning changes were approved, said town counsel Mark Lanza. He also said under the comprehensive permit they could only be taxed as residential.
The Harvard Green Trustees have not yet written the zoning change bylaw, and Board of Selectmen (BOS) member Lucy Wallace requested that the Planning Board decide to support or reject the request before having town counsel write the bylaw for them.
The two remaining bylaw changes discussed were at the request of fire Chief Robert Mignard. They were for an update to capacity requirements for subdivision water cisterns and to create a fire alarm connection for large subdivisions.
Mignard withdrew his request for an alarm connection because he recently found that it would be cost prohibitive, but the board was interested in discussing the other request. Current cisterns have a water capacity requirement of 5,000 gallons, which the Mignard would like to see increased to 30,000 gallons, which would reflect current National Fire Protection Association standards.
The board received input on these proposals, but could not vote without a quorum.
Essary also announced that they may have one vacancy on their board during the town caucus on Feb. 4, as she believes board member Marc Sevigny does not intend to run for re-election.