Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Monday, January 5, 2009
Time For A Rewrite Of The Bylaws
In 1972, it was the thing to do.
That summer, while I got my act together, I crashed in a variety of places, including my car, but by fall I had my first apartment. It was in an older home, and was very small. After a few roommates, and little privacy I was offered a place at a friends house. The apartment was an in-law apartment built especially for his grandfather. The apartment was attached to the 1950's ranch style house, and over a new two car garage. It was a nice, clean place. It had a large bedroom, a large bathroom and shower, and a combination living room / dining room. There was no kitchen, but rather a sliding door to the owners kitchen for use by the grandfather. That was fine, I ate out all the time, but I did manage to put a refrigerator in the place for essentials like left over subs and beer.
That apartment saved me.
The rent was cheap, only $150.00 a month, and heat was included. For a 19 year old man with two jobs, and not a clue as to where he would be in five years, it was a God-send. It offered shelter, security, and the companionship of my friend and his family any time I felt the need. When I did start school, it offered a quiet place to study, and base my operations from. Other apartments in town were renting for two to four times the amount; something I could not afford at the time, and since I was paying for my schooling on my own, every penny counted.
This "in-law" apartment presented itself to me at time in my life when it was most needed. I have often wondered where I would be if I did not find a place that I could live in with little distraction, privacy, and for an amount I could afford. Would I have continued in the other place with the nightly parties, finding other people sleeping in my bed, eating all my groceries, and treating it as a crash pad for visitors from all corners of the globe, and not have been affected by it?
I doubt it.
There were, and still are, many "in-law" apartments in my hometown. Many are in older homes, and have been used for a hundred years or so. Others, are in more modern homes, like the one I rented, and even more current houses.
Back in the 1930's, when lodging was needed for all those out of work, families could augment their income by renting rooms, or pieces of their homes. This was a win-win for all parties for obvious reasons. The same can be said for economic times, and needs of today.
If an older resident has some space that exists. or could be designated an "in-law" apartment, they should be able to rent it out to whomever they please. Blood relation, or not. For generations this type have arrangement has insured that many folks could afford to stay in the home they have known for many years, and not have to move out. Those that do, usually move in with one of their children, and if they are fortunate, their child has in-law apartment in a town that allows them.
What a twist.
Sturbridge should amend its bylaw regarding the use of these kind of living arrangements. If a person owns a home that has the space to rent out as an apartment with its own entrance, bath, and bedroom, then why not? An extra car in the driveway, or another person or two at the address won't cause any extra congestion. No more so than having two or three teens all with their own vehicle.
Imagine what this could mean for the young single person on their own for the first time, or with a small child and totally on their own. Maybe, an older person that is in between jobs, and needs housing that is affordable, or even a much older person that no longer can afford, or need a large place of their own, but chooses to down size.
Bylaws and regulations that prevent, and restrict opportunities like this from existing are nothing more than the opinion of those in a position to place their personal feelings into law. They do nothing to make our lives better, or safer.
Of course, there would have to be some regulations. A separate entrance, a proper bedroom, a bathroom, a place to properly prepare food, and utilities are all essential. Parking for an additional vehicle would be required as well. But, these are things that are the same that are required for any dwelling.
I know that if it had not been for my good fortune in having that apartment back during a time when I needed it most, things may be entirely different for me today.
It's just time to rewrite the bylaws, and I hope those in the position will do so, and not let their personal feelings get in the way of what is only right.