Committee to review boarding house regs

WESTFIELD The City Council’s License Committee will discuss boarding house and single room occupancy regulations Monday night.
At-large Councilor John J Beltrandi III, chairman of the License Committee, said the issue has been in committee, but has not moved forward because of the lack of input.
“It’s been on my agenda for too long,” he said Friday. “I want to do something with it, so we’ll discuss if we’re keeping it in committee for further input or get rid of it.”
The committee could refer the issue to the council’s Legislative & Ordinance (L&O) Committee if the issue needs to be address through amendments to the city’s code of zoning ordinances, or it could remove it from committee without action.
“It is an allowed use, but needs clarification,” Beltrandi said.
Ward 2 Councilor James E. Brown Jr., chairman of the L&O and the sponsor of the original motion to send it to the License Committee two years ago, said his motion was made to address several situations at that time and is still a valid concern.
One specific incident escalated to involve the Police, Health and Building departments when a former Vadnais Street homeowner rented space in her basement to several persons.
Health Department inspectors initiated the investigation because the basement did not have a second means of egress, as required by state health and fire safety regulations.
“The reason I brought it forward is that we had a lot of houses being turned into boarding houses,” Brown said. “The council needs to work with the Health, Police and Building departments to better define what constitutes a boarding house or single room occupancy so people know the requirements. I want it clearly defined for property owners.”
Brown said that he also wants clarification of who has the authority to issue permits and who is responsible for inspecting those facilities to ensure there are in compliance with city zoning codes and state laws.
“That’s the problem. I don’t think there is a review process,” Brown said. “We may want property owners to have to apply for a special permit through the Planning Board, so there is a public review and so the city can attach conditions to the permit to control that use of the property.”
Currently Boarding Houses are an allowed use in the Rural Residential District and Residence A District under Article III of the city’s zoning code.
Boarding houses in the Rural Residential district are addressed in Section 3-40.3 (Permitted Accessory Uses) and for the Residence A district in Section 3-50.3
The RR district regulation allows up to three roomers with meals, provided if other required permits from the building and health departments are obtained.
The RA use also allows up to three roomers, with meals provided, if required permits from the Fire, Health and Building departments are first obtained.
Single room occupancy is not addressed in the city’s ordinance regulations.

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