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Zoning Board of Adjustment Minutes 06/26/07
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ANTRIM ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT

June 26, 2007 Meeting


Members & Staff Present:

John Giffin
Bradley Houseworth
John Kendall
Frank Scales
Don Winchester
Paul Young
        

Member & Staff Absent:  

Carol Court
Doug Crafts
Len Pagano

                                        
Public Attendees:       

Nate Chamberlain
Micheline DeRosa
John Gordon
Susan Gordon
Pamela Matthews
Phil Marrotte
Norm Shepard
Christopher Stephenson



Chairman Winchester convened the meeting at 7:21 PM, introduced himself, and asked the Board members to introduce themselves.  Chairman Winchester appointed Mr. Giffin to sit for the absent Mr. Pagano and outlined the procedure to be followed for the public meetings and subsequent public hearings.


Russell, Lester and Giffen; File # 2007-10ZBA:  Chairman Winchester opened the public meeting on the request of Lester and Giffen Russell for an area variance from Article VI, Section C.3.a., to permit the construction of a conversion apartment within a few feet of the front yard setback on property located at 36 West Street (Tax Map 242, Lot 1) in Antrim, NH 03440, located in the Residential District.  Chairman Winchester explained that at the last meeting the Russells’ were granted a special exception for the construction of a conversion apartment on property located at 36 West Street in Antrim and in the process the Board became aware that an area variance would also need to be granted in order for the conversion apartment to be built within two (2) feet of the front yard setback area in order for the addition to be flush with the existing house.  He explained that therefore the Board felt that it was not appropriate to decide on the granting of an area variance when only a special exception was advertised and so the Board has scheduled the Russells tonight to come before the Board for an area variance to the front yard setback area and a variance for the expansion of an existing, nonconforming structure.

Chairman Winchester asked the applicants to stand and present their proposal.  Mr. Norm Shepard introduced himself and explained that he is the Russell’s builder and agent for the proposed project.  He stated that the existing house is only forty eight (48’) feet to the road (West Street) and where the conversion apartment is planned is also forty eight (48’) feet to the road and therefore extends two (2’) feet into the front yard setback area.  Mr. Kendall stated that at the last meeting Mr. Pagano proposed that the Board grant an area variance to allow the applicants to encroach into the front yard setback up to five (5’) feet so that the new conversion apartment cannot extend any closer than forty five (45’) feet to West Street in order to give the applicants a range in which to place the new addition.  
Mr. Houseworth stated that all abutters were properly notified, all certified letter receipts were returned, and the staff didn’t receive any letters regarding this proposal.  
Chairman Winchester closed the public meeting, opened the public hearing, and asked if any abutters are present that would like to speak in favor of the proposal; there were none.  Chairman Winchester asked if any abutters are present that would like to speak in opposition of the proposal; there were none.

Mr. Young moved to close the public hearing, which was seconded by Mr. Kendall, and was unanimously approved.  Chairman Winchester opened the Board’s deliberation period and asked Mr. Houseworth to read aloud the criteria for the granting of an area variance, which he did.  The Board discussed whether this proposal meets each and every criterion in Article VI, Section C.3.a and Article XVI, Section C.1 and came to a consensus after discussing each one that it does in fact meet all of the criteria for both the granting of an area variance to the front yard setback requirement and the granting of a variance for the expansion of an existing, non-conforming structure.  Mr. Young moved to grant the two following area variances: 1)  An area variance from Article VI, Section C.3.a of the Antrim Zoning Ordinances, to permit the construction of a conversion apartment within five (5’) feet of the front yard setback (as close as 45’ to West Street); and 2) A variance from Article XVI, Section C.1. of the Antrim Zoning Ordinances, to allow the expansion of an existing, non-conforming structure.  Mr. Scales seconded the motion which was unanimously passed.  

Mr. Houseworth stated that the two (2) area variances had been granted and the applicant would receive a notice of decision in the mail, signed by the chairman.  Chairman Winchester thanked the applicants for coming and for their patience with the Board.


Inex Homes, LLC; File # 2007-11ZBA:  Chairman Winchester opened the public meeting on the request by Inex Homes, LLC for an area variance from Article XIV, Section O.3.a., to permit the development of a six (6) lot single family residence cluster housing subdivision on a back lot with less than the minimum frontage requirement of one hundred and fifty (150’) feet on an existing road (Class V or better), on property located on the southerly side of Pleasant Street (Tax Map 245, Lot 017) in Antrim, NH 03440, located in the Rural District.  Chairman Winchester asked the applicants to stand and present their proposal.

Mr. Nate Chamberlin, Meridian Land Services, introduced himself and the applicant/ manager of Inex Homes, LLC, Mr. Phil Marrotte, and explained that they are in front of the Board tonight for an area variance to the cluster housing development minimum tract frontage requirement of one hundred and fifty (150’) feet on an existing, Class V road.  He explained that the parcel in question is approximately a thirty (30) acre back lot with approximately fifty six (56’) feet of frontage which they propose to subdivide into a residential development.  Mr. Chamberlin stated that they have two (2) different residential development concept designs: one which is a conceptual conventional subdivision design and one which is a conceptual cluster housing subdivision design, and distributed a plan of each design, both dated March 28, 2007, to the Board members.  He explained that the conceptual conventional subdivision design includes seven (7) residential house lots, which all meet the Town’s subdivision regulations and zoning ordinance requirements, and a lengthy, proposed Class V road which ends at a cul-de-sac near the southeastern property line.  He stated that what they prefer to do is the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design which includes six (6) residential house lots and a much shorter length of proposed Class V road which ends at a cul-de-sac in the center of the thirty (30) acre back lot, near the property line of the Dadiotes Family Trust.  

Mr. Chamberlin explained that the real issue here is that the applicant could currently appear in front of the Planning Board for a conceptual conventional subdivision design, without obtaining an area variance because there is no minimum tract frontage requirement for conventional subdivisions, but if he wants to appear in front of the Planning Board for a conceptual cluster housing subdivision design he would first need to obtain an area variance from the cluster housing minimum tract frontage requirement of one hundred and fifty (150’) feet on an existing Class V road because the back lot currently has only fifty six (56’) feet of road frontage along Pleasant Street.  He stated that they prefer to do a cluster housing subdivision design because it is a win-win situation for all parties involved: the applicant can build a less expensive, shorter road, which reduces the total impact to the parcel; the cluster housing design includes an approximate 11.9 acre parcel of open space which would be left in conservation for new residents to enjoy; and the cluster housing design results in one (1) less residential house lot.  He explained that they have met with Mr. Beblowski of the Conservation Commission and they prefer the open space subdivision design.  Mr. Marrotte explained that the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design involves the least amount of development, appeases the Conservation Commission, and leaves an open space parcel in the southeastern portion of the lot which connects to the open space/ common land of the Bryers Lane subdivision to the north of the property.  He stated that a cluster housing subdivision design keeps the parcel from being overdeveloped, impacts less of the wetland complexes present on the site, and really fits the land and topography of the parcel better than what a conventional subdivision design would allow for.

Mr. Houseworth asked Mr. Chamberlin if the 11.9 acres of open space proposed in the conceptual cluster housing subdivision plan meets the Town’s cluster housing common open space requirement that at least forty (40%) percent of the gross tract area be set aside as common open space; he replied that it does and pointed out that the open space parcel is concentrated in the southeastern corner of the tract but extends behind the proposed lots along the southern tract boundary line and encompasses a large wetland complex in the southwestern corner of the tract.  Mr. Marrotte explained that the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design also includes two (2) less wetland crossings than are proposed in the conceptual conventional subdivision design and therefore would involve fewer disturbances to the existing wetland complexes.  Mr. Chamberlin stated that they have already applied to NHDES for a dredge and fill permit for three (3) proposed wetland crossings, two existing crossings which will be upgraded and one new, as proposed for the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design.

After a short discussion about the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design plan, Mr. Kendall asked if they need to be assured that the proposed driveways meet the Town’s regulations.  Mr. Houseworth stated that Board should only be looking at this application regarding whether to grant an area variance to allow the applicant to propose a cluster housing subdivision on a back lot with fifty six (56’) feet of frontage and not whether the proposed cluster house lots, roads, and driveways meet the Town’s regulations.  He stated that regardless of the Board’s decision tonight, the applicant will have to appear in front of the Planning Board in order to obtain subdivision approval and at that time the Planning Board will make sure that all house lots, roads, and driveways meet the Town’s subdivision and site plan review regulations and zoning ordinance requirements.  Mr. Kendall also expressed concerns about the line of sight and sight distance requirements for the entire tract on Pleasant Street; Mr. Houseworth explained that theoretically these issues were addressed by the Planning Board and Road Agent when this back lot was originally created and will be addressed again by the Planning Board when the applicant appears in front of the Board for subdivision approval of the back lot.  Mr. Chamberlin explained that they are willing to work with the Town, Road Agent, and abutters to address the line of sight issues and try to improve it to the best of their ability.

Mr. Kendall stated that he believes a cluster housing subdivision design is a better fit and makes more sense for this particular property than a conventional subdivision design; Mr. Young agreed.  Chairman Winchester closed the public meeting, opened the public hearing, and asked if any abutters are present that would like to speak in favor of the proposal; there were none.  Chairman Winchester asked if any abutters are present that would like to speak in opposition of the proposal.

Mr. Christopher Stephenson introduced himself, stated that he is an abutter and lives at 66 Pleasant Street, and asked if the granting of the area variance tonight affects or reduces the amount of sand and gravel material that is proposed to be removed from the site.  He explained that the current excavation plans have identified forty eight thousand (48,000) cubic yards of material to be excavated from the site within the next year.  Mr. Chamberlin explained that the Board’s decision tonight will not impact the amount of material that is proposed to be removed from the site and if they are denied the area variance tonight to have a cluster housing subdivision development, then they will appear in front of the Planning Board with a conceptual conventional subdivision development.

Mr. Stephenson explained that it was his understanding that one of the agreements the applicant made with the Conservation Commission during the earth excavation permit process with the Planning Board was that the applicant’s subdivision proposal to the Planning Board would include an 11.9 acre parcel of open space in order to offset the accidental encroachment into the Town’s twenty five (25’) foot wetland setback area during the recent logging activities conducted on the site.  He explained that the conceptual conventional subdivision design plan presented tonight does not include an 11.9 acre open space lot and wondered why it isn’t being shown on the plans presented.

Mr. Houseworth explained that Mr. Stephenson seems to be alluding to a letter dated May 16, 2007 from the Antrim Conservation Commission to the Antrim Planning Board regarding a meeting the applicant had with the Conservation Commission in order to obtain a report from the commission necessary for a special use permit from the Board.  He stated that the letter states: “During our meeting, a preliminary Plan of Land for Map 1A, Lot 62 by Meridian dated March 28, 2007 was provided for discussion purposes.  The plan indicated 6 house lots and 1 Open-Space lot (OSL).  The OSL was indicated as 11.9 acres in size.  The dedication of 11.9± acres in open space is viewed as being a positive natural resource benefit in conformance with the Commission’s Natural Resource Benefit Policy.”  Mr. Houseworth explained that Mr. Peter Beblowski told him during a phone conservation about the commission’s letter that it was his understanding that the 11.9 acres of open space parcel would be part of the subdivision proposal they bring in front of the Planning Board, regardless of being a conventional or cluster housing subdivision design.  

Mr. Houseworth stated that this confused him for two primary reasons: 1) conventional subdivisions do not usually include open space lots to be conserved and protected from future development, and 2) Mr. Beblowski’s letter indicates a plan was reviewed involving six (6) house lots and one (1) open space lot, dated March 28 2007.  He explained that the only concept plan in front of the Board tonight that meets this description is the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design.  Mr. Marrotte explained that Mr. Beblowski was presented with the conceptual cluster housing subdivision design plan at their meeting with the Conservation Commission so he is confused why Mr. Beblowski thought the 11.9± acres of open space would be part of the subdivision proposal, regardless of a conventional or cluster housing subdivision.  Mr. Houseworth stated that it appears there was some confusion among the two parties involved during their meeting on what they were looking at in terms of a conceptual subdivision plan and what was agreed upon and it seems the issue will not be resolved until we can get further feedback from the Conservation Commission on this matter.  Mr. Kendall stated that unfortunately this letter is based on a verbal agreement, is not absolute, and it seems that both parties aren’t even in agreement with what was agreed upon.  He stated that he thinks the Board needs to make its decision tonight regardless of the content of the letter.

Mr. Stephenson explained that his point is that if an 11.9 acre open space parcel was added to the conceptual conventional subdivision design plan would the applicant be able to fit an additional seven (7) house lots into the back lot or would there be a smaller number of house lots proposed due to the dedication of 11.9 acres of open space.  He explained that there would have to be another conceptual conventional plan developed showing where the additional seven (7) residential house lots will fit into the back lot.

Mr. Chamberlin explained that it was agreed upon at the meeting with the Conservation Commission regarding this issue that if for some reason the 11.9± acre parcel of open space does not come to fruition, then the applicant would have to meet again with the commission in order to come up with another alternative that both parties are satisfied with.  Mr. Houseworth explained that regardless of what happens tonight the applicant will have to go in front of the Planning Board for subdivision approval and the Board will at that time address the issue of whether an 11.9± acre parcel of open space will be required as part of the subdivision approval, as agreed upon by the two parties.

Mr. Stephenson reviewed the five criteria to be considered when deciding to grant an area variance and explained that the purpose of cluster housing subdivision developments, as specified by Article XIV, Section O.1, is to promote the conservation of the natural and scenic environment, to provide for the most appropriate and efficient use of the buildable land in harmony with the natural terrain, and to enable flexibility in layout of residential developments.  He stated that it is his opinion that the removal of forty eight thousand (48,000) cubic yards of sand from the site to maximize the number of building lots is not working in harmony with the natural terrain, clear cutting of the site does not preserve trees, and removing a ridgeline does not respect the outstanding natural topography and geologic features.  He stated that this is contrary to the public interest and therefore the second criterion for the granting of an area variance in this case has not been met.  He explained that in terms of the third criterion for the granting of an area variance, it is not an unnecessary hardship because the applicant could put in seven (7) conventional lots without a variance and is asking for an area variance in order to put in six (6) house lots and one (1) open space lot.  He explained that in regards to the fourth criterion for the granting of an area variance, substantial justice is not done because the cluster housing proposal doesn’t favor any additional land preservation or work in harmony with the natural terrain of the back lot.  He stated that ultimately he feels this proposal is not consistent with the spirit of the cluster housing ordinance because a cluster housing subdivision development and the operation of an earth excavation pit which removes forty eight thousand (48,000) cubic yards of material don’t seem to be in accordance.

Chairman Winchester asked if any other abutters are present that would like to speak in opposition of the proposal.  Ms. Susan Gordon stood up, introduced herself, stated that she is an abutter at 80 Pleasant Street, and explained that she would rather see a cluster housing subdivision design approach versus a conventional housing subdivision design because the traffic for six (6) houses will be less than that for seven (7) houses and she would rather have almost twelve acres of open space set aside rather than none.  She explained that the road is an issue and will continue to be an issue and would rather see less traffic than more.  Mr. Chamberlin stated that they can go to the Planning Board now with a conventional subdivision design approach, leaving virtually no open space for the Town, or go with the proposal they prefer, a cluster housing subdivision design approach which would involve almost twelve acres of open space.

Mr. Chamberlin read aloud the applicant’s reasons why their proposal meets the five (5) criteria needed to be met to grant the area variance, as documented in the application that was submitted to the Board and is on file at Town Hall.

Mr. Scales moved to close the public hearing, which was seconded by Mr. Giffin, and was unanimously passed.  Chairman Winchester opened the public meeting for the Board’s deliberation period regarding the proposal.  Mr. Young stated that the question before the Board is whether or not to grant an area variance to permit the development of a cluster housing subdivision development on a back lot with fifty six (56’) feet of frontage on Pleasant Street.  Mr. Kendall explained that his frustration lies in the fact the there are no minimum tract frontage requirements for conventional subdivisions and therefore the Town has no way to prevent the subdivision of a large back lot with fifty (50’) feet of frontage if the conventional subdivision proposal meets the Town’s subdivision regulations and zoning ordinances.  He explained that if the Town is going to allow a subdivision of a back lot with fifty six (56’) feet of frontage, then in this particular case he would rather see a cluster housing subdivision development which includes less traffic, an open space parcel, and makes the best use of the land.  He stated that how can the Board deny the right to have a cluster housing subdivision development on a back lot when a conventional subdivision could be developed on the same lot without having to come to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for an area variance.  He explained that his concern is that the Board will do more harm to the abutters and land of the back lot if they allow a conventional subdivision design versus a cluster housing subdivision design.  He stated that with the cluster housing subdivision design approach, the open space parcel will be preserved, while if a conventional subdivision design is proposed, the open space lot may be lost.

Mr. Scales moved to go to roll call vote, which was seconded by Mr. Young and was unanimously passed.  Chairman Winchester asked Mr. Houseworth to review aloud the five (5) criteria used to determine whether to grant the area variance; which he did.  The roll call vote results follow:

1.      The value of surrounding properties will not be diminished.  Mr. Kendall explained that you are going to see the same types of homes developed regardless of the subdivision design and they will be built by the same developer.  Mr. Young stated that he thinks the surrounding properties will be valued higher due to the additional acres dedicated to open space.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.
2.      The variance will not be contrary to the public interest.  Mr. Kendall explained that the Town’s Master Plan encourages smart growth projects and cluster housing subdivision developments.  He stated that the cluster housing subdivision design includes less traffic which seems to appease some of the abutters.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.
3.      Special conditions exist such that literal enforcement of the ordinance results in unnecessary hardship as follows:
a.      An area variance is needed to enable the applicant’s proposed use of the property given the special conditions of the property.  Mr. Young explained that the applicant is proposing a cluster housing subdivision design which will have fewer impacts to the back lot, abutters, and the neighborhood.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.
b.      The benefit sought by the applicant cannot be achieved by some other method reasonably feasible for the applicant to pursue, other than an area variance.  The Board members agreed that the applicant could develop a conventional subdivision design without the need for an area variance, but not a cluster housing subdivision design.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.
4.      Substantial justice is done.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.
5.      The variance is consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.  The spirit of the ordinance is in line with the recommendations from the Master Plan and encourages cluster housing subdivision developments on lots that are appropriate for such a development.  Roll call vote: Mr. Scales – aye, Mr. Young – aye, Mr. Giffin – aye, and Mr. Kendall – aye.

Mr. Houseworth stated that the area variance from Article XIV, Section O.3.a., to permit the development of a cluster housing subdivision on a back lot with less than the minimum frontage requirement of one hundred and fifty (150’) feet on an existing road (Class V or better) had been granted and the applicant would receive a notice of decision in the mail, signed by the chairman.  Chairman Winchester thanked the applicants and abutters for coming and providing their comments and statements to the Board.


Approve ZBA Meeting Minutes:  Mr. Kendall moved to approve the minutes of the June 5, 2007 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting as corrected, which was seconded by Mr. Giffin and unanimously passed.


Letter & Certificate of Appreciation to be awarded to Mr. Brian Francis:  Mr. Houseworth provided the members with a draft letter dated June 19, 2007 from the Chairman of the Planning Board, Mr. Brian Sawich, addressed to Mr. Brian Francis, congratulating him on behalf of the Antrim Land Use Boards for his recent earning of the rank of Eagle Scout.  Mr. Houseworth stated that the letter expresses the Town’s appreciation to Mr. Francis for his excellent design and sound construction techniques which were used to build a picnic pavilion at the Town Beach on Gregg Lake.  The Board wishes to honor Mr. Brian Francis at the next Board meeting on July 13, 2007, if he is available, by presenting him with the letter and awarding him a Certificate of Appreciation for his efforts on the picnic pavilion at the Town Beach on Gregg Lake.  

Mr. Young moved to adjourn the meeting.  Mr. Giffin seconded the motion which unanimously passed.  Chairman Winchester adjourned the meeting at 9:00 PM.


Respectfully submitted,


Bradley J. Houseworth, Secretary
Antrim Zoning Board of Adjustment




 
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