SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters will be asked to approve reducing the allowable residential space to 250 square feet at this year’s annual town meeting.
Selectmen approved two proposed amendments to the town’s Land Use Ordinance (LUO) during their meeting Feb. 28 following an explanation from outgoing Planning Board Chairman Mike Magnani.
“It will just give us more opportunities in town,” he said. “At least it’s moving forward with getting some form of affordable housing.”
In an attempt to find more housing options for seasonal and year-round employees, the town is looking to make allow smaller spaces for full-time living. Magnani explained it is not unusual to have such small residences in Europe.
Minimal residential space in all zones is now 500 square feet and the amendment would allow a residential space to be as small as 250 square feet.
“This particular size is great for someone who has a garage and wants to put a rental on top,” said Code Enforcement Officer Don Lagrange from his office on Tuesday. “It creates housing for people.”
Along the same vein as tiny homes, these limited living spaces within a larger building are often called micro apartments. While they are more common in Europe where space is limited for home construction, the smaller dwellings may soon become a familiar sight in Mount Desert Island towns in order to provide more affordable options. A residential space is required to include a bathroom, kitchen area, sleeping and sitting spaces.
A second proposed amendment to the LUO for voters to decide is changing the wording on Section VI, N-2 from “a permit must be obtained from the Town of Southwest Harbor’s Sewer Department” to “Southwest Harbor Water and Sewer District (the District).”
Magnani and Lagrange call the second amendment a housekeeping matter where the language in the town ordinance needs to reflect the current situation.
Selectmen voted 4-0 in favor of putting both amendments before voters at the annual town meeting in May. Selectman Lydia Goetze was absent.