The Vernon Township Council on Nov. 24 introduced an ordinance that would require the living space for “accessory apartments” share a common entrance and not have a separate exterior entrance.
The public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled for Dec. 14.
According to the proposed ordinance, the living space must be connected by a door to the remainder of the residence and may have its own kitchen appliances if allowed under code.
Before the “accessory apartment” can be occupied, the owner must complete a zoning application and a notarized form supplied by the township specifying who is permitted to occupy the apartment and agreeing to remove all kitchen appliances once the person no longer lives there.
Township resident Peg DiStasi, who had an elder parent live with her for eight years, said not having a second access could be a fire hazard.
“They move very slowly,” she said. “They’re usually on walkers. To get them out quickly is always a major dilemma. Having access to a separate door to wherever the ‘mother-daughter’ is, I think would be better for a fire than to have them go through the main entrance.”
Councilman Andrew Pitsker said the ordinance had been reviewed by the zoning, fire, and building departments. He also specified that the ordinance applies to current single-family dwellings that are being converted.
Councilwoman Jean Murphy said the second entrance issue can be revisited in the future. A separate entrance can create a problem where people renting an accessary apartment are creating a two-family home, she said.
Murphy said people may be getting hung up on the idea of the common entrance.
She used the example of an entrance to a laundry room where you go one way to the accessory apartment and another way to the main living space, or a bilevel where stairs go up to one space and down to another living space, which may have a sliding door to the outside.
“I think people think there will be an apartment stuck with no way to get out,” Murphy said. “I think they’re hung up on a technicality.”