Town Hall Notebook | Planning Board Finalizes ATM Articles For Warrant


About 70 residents attended a public hearing Monday where Manchester’s Planning Board (PB) approved final language on four articles for April’s Annual Town Meeting to change the town bylaw to create the town’s first senior housing bylaw, regulate “adult entertainment,” update the accessory dwelling units (ADUs) bylaw, and change the board’s administration by adding two alternate members.

Consideration of the four proposed articles is a follow up to last fall’s hectic Special Town Meeting that was mired by technical issues, in which residents passed four of twelve PB articles before the meeting was closed.

Two of the four articles—adult entertainment and administrative changes—passed with little discussion and minimum changes.  The other two—ADUs and senior housing that

address fundamental challenges in Manchester’s housing inventory —inspired animated debate.

The PB’s Chris Olney led the discussion on what would be Manchester’s first senior housing zoning bylaw.  He said Manchester’s 65+ population has grown from 19.6% in 2010 to 22.5% in 2020 and it’s expected to be a third of the town’s population by 2030.

Manchester has no senior bylaw on the books.  Ipswich, Rockport, Hamilton and Wenham all have senior bylaw in their zoning.  Right now, approximately 250 seniors are in subsidized, low-income rental units.  Senior housing facilities are not allowed, but non-profit nursing homes are allowed by special permit.

As approved, the proposed bylaw would allow senior housing by special permit if it fits within zoning district requirements.  There would be a 1,200-sf maximum for a two-bedroom unit or home; 900-sf for one-bedroom; and 600-sf for a studio.  Also, secondary residents must be over age 18, and applicants would have to address issues like light pollution, traffic impact, neighborhood aesthetics, pedestrian and vehicular access (including ADA standards), landscaping and “scenic viewsheds,” and fiscal impacts, among others.  Proposed senior housing would have to be deed restricted.

Resident Katerina Gates asked why affordable housing restrictions aren’t addressed in the bylaw.  Interim Town Planner Betsy Ware said that under state law, towns can’t insert affordability restrictions within senior housing bylaws.

A senior housing bylaw is an idea whose time has come, said Olney.  “Many of our most treasured citizens are forced to leave town,” he said, describing the limited housing options right now for those who sell their homes and don’t have places to go, at any price.

Proposed changes to the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) bylaw generated significant debate, not just among the public but within the PB.  In the end, the board approved changes to requirements to apply for an ADU addressing minimum lot size, length of occupancy, and a 12-month lease restriction.

Currently, to apply for an ADU, property owners must have a double size lot, show parking for four vehicles, and the dwelling must have been built before 1984.  

Isabella Bates, a Mascnomo Street resident, commented that the ADU discussion suffered from the misinformation that it was a two-family resulting from an addition or build-out to a home when in fact it’s simply a “reconfiguration” of an existing home’s footprint to make it work better for a homeowner.  Reconfiguring one’s space to accommodate a relative or employee is something that would be a needed solution for many residents.  

It’s not an expansion, she said. Parking was a hot issue for many.  The proposal sought to reduce the parking to three spaces.  But at Monday’s hearing, residents said adding capacity for new residents would place added pressure on parking in general, particularly on-street parking which becomes restricted in the winter months.  Another issue?  A liberalized ADU bylaw might be a trojan horse for “Airbnb-ification” of units.  One resident even said it could bring a “resort” dynamic to Manchester.  (Manchester already has regulations that limit Airbnb rentals.)

In the end, the approved ADU bylaw language reduced the lot size from two-lots to the minimum single lot requirement for the applicant’s district, retained the four-space parking requirement, requires at least five years of occupancy by the owner, and added a 12-month lease for the second unit.


  • The PB’s proposed new Adult Entertainment bylaw was approved without changes.  This would move First Amendment-protected adult entertainment businesses to Manchester’s Limited Commercial District.  The bylaw would also restrict the selling of adult magazines and the like (already allowed for 21+ under Massachusetts law) behind retail counters.
  • Proposed changes to the administrative section of the bylaw also passed with some small but important changes.  Specifically, the new language would add two alternate board members to serve only for higher intensity board matters like special permit and they would be voted in by a majority of the board.  

The Select Board will formally vote to finalize all articles on the ATM Warrant at its meeting next week.  Manchester’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 3.