Accessory apartments are the new darlings of municipal planning. Once spurned out of fear they would result in the “wrong element” coming into neighborhoods, including tenants whose parked cars would clog the streets, they are now seen as a way to allow residents to keep New Paltz affordable while also expanding the housing stock. There was talk a couple of years ago about updating Town law to reflect this modern understanding, but it was shelved due to efforts to pass a state law on the subject. State laws can sometimes preempt local ordinances, such as when the Village plastic-bag law was replaced by a weaker state version. However, it’s become clear that no state law is forthcoming this year, and Town Council members are ready to revisit this as a local matter.
Supervisor Neil Bettez said at the March 17 council meeting that this should begin with a review of the current law, to get an understanding how of it makes it more difficult to build an accessory apartment — if at all. The supervisor believes that only allowing these in homes occupied by their owners is necessary. Deputy supervisor Torres speculated that this would lead to better tenant experiences, since issues such as lost heat or water would be shared by owner and renter alike.