Speak up at public hearing, get the ADU regulation Norwalk needs

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Seniors, Singles and Small Families are urged to speak out at or send emails to tonight’s public hearing about where to construct affordable ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units, at the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday night.  While the entire meeting begins at 6 p.m., the public hearing on this topic will start later, after other business.

While I would rather that the City does not Opt Out by the deadline of January of 2023, which is allowed by statute, more robust and creative amendments to the ADU regulations would have been welcome.

In an effort to opt out of the State Legislature’s recent brave attempt to address the affordable housing crisis, the Planning and Zoning Commission had to create comparable local Zoning regulations but has missed the mark on offering truly affordable housing options to seniors, singles and small families.

This amended effort just does not go far enough and embrace the spirit or the letter of the intended Connecticut law.  This draft barely moves the needle. They need to go back to the drawing Board especially for the disarmingly-restrictive regulations about detached ADUs, or Norwalk should not vote to Opt Out.

During the initial review, staff actually found out that there have been a very small number of permitted attached ADUs constructed over the last… 35 years!  And no wonder, the rules were so restrictive, many homeowners avoided them and some opted for the illegal apartment problem we now have. Attached ADUs have included what is known as “Mother-in-Law” apartments.  There are now many ways to add affordable housing options, both as attached and detached ADUs, including Tiny Homes and Prefabricated ADUs.  AARP.org has done amazing study about the subject.

The stated purpose and intent of the amendments to the accessory dwelling unit regulations are listed as follows:

Article 42, section 118-420: Sections are in bold text.

A.    Purpose and intent. a. The intent of this regulation is to encourage the creation of accessory dwelling units in existing single-family zones for the purpose of providing rental housing for the elderly, single persons and small families.


While this sounds well-intended, the rest of the proposed draft regulations do quite the opposite by adding many restrictions that will not only stop a homeowner from contemplating this measure but will also cause the construction to be too expensive to be worth the trouble.

B.    Location and yards. a. The location of a detached accessory dwelling unit shall be as follows: 2 i. Front setback: The same as permitted by Section 118-230.


By disallowing ANY detached ADUs in a front yard, the Commission is being short-sighted and missing many opportunities when the yards are vast.  This encourages a legion of “NIMFYs”…”Not in My FRONT Yard”!

E.  Maximum size. a. Detached accessory dwelling units shall not exceed 700 square feet in floor area. b. Attached accessory dwelling units shall not exceed 1,000 square feet in floor area.


During one summer meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, one Commissioner had a “let them eat cake” moment when they stated that “600 square feet should be enough to live in.”   The Commission thought they were being proactive by increasing the square footage by 100 square feet even after several of us suggested 850.  At a recent Council Economic Development Committee meeting on the subject, the Chairman seemed in disbelief that there is even a problem to be solved.  Why do some of our officials seem so tone-deaf?

G. Prohibited structures. a. Mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, shipping containers, storage containers and any other wheeled or transportable structures shall not be used as an accessory dwelling unit.


While I can understand a restriction on recreational vehicles and travel trailers, pre-fabricated homes are often on tiny wheels and are less expensive to build offsite, but can be just as beautiful and stylish as the primary home.  Why be so restrictive?

H. Parking. a. Three (3) off-street parking spaces shall be provided: two (2) spaces per principal dwelling and one (1) space per accessory dwelling unit. Such parking shall comply with all applicable sections of Article 120, Off-Street Parking and Loading Regulations.


Lastly, I find these parking regulations too restrictive and will discourage, not encourage, this type of housing option.

This Draft Regulation also keeps referring to various portions of the City’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) but I find that the ADU Draft as written for the hearing tonight does not comply with many of the POCD goals set forth.

I urge all residents and all elected officials including City Council members who would like to ensure that they and their friends and family can remain in Norwalk to speak up.

Diane Lauricella


John O'Neill December 8, 2022 at 12:11 pm

With a little luck I can build 3 ADUs on my property and add a 18,000 sq ft church with a 100 foot spire for services. My neighbors might not be happy, but I’ll be able to retire to a more sane place. Keep us in the loop.

David Muccigrosso December 8, 2022 at 12:19 pm

On the one hand, I favor incremental progress, even when it comes at the cost of some tradeoffs.

But in the bigger picture, I simply can’t trust this zero-sum discourse we’re having, with the rabid NIMBYs on the one side, and a corrupt machine that only cares about where its next payoff is coming from.

The most basic change we should be making is a simple one: Always allow, by right, the next increment of development. Single homes can be made into duplexes or add ADUs, triplexes into quads, and any building can be replaced with one a floor taller.

It would give us the incremental development we actually need without condoning speculation. And it wouldn’t get in the way of bigger projects, it would only allow ANY small project to be done. It balances everyone’s interests while not giving away the farm to any one group.

It’s a really sad statement on our politics that this will probably not happen anytime soon.

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