The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 12, 1999


BOA denies first request under preservation bylaw

It's a reflection on the town character that all three properties under review by the Carlisle Zoning Board of Appeals at its last meeting met the standard definition of an "antique" (over 100 years old). In fact, it was that very aspect of a barn founded in Colonial times that led the board to consider its first application under the Distinctive Structure Preservation article approved last year by Town Meeting.

The zoning board reviewed and denied the application of Michael and Laura Baliestiero for a special permit to "renovate and re-use" their antique barn as a shop to refurbish specialty and antique cars. Although the applicants had obtained a building permit and successfully passed inspection, the Baliestieros also had to obtain the special permit from the zoning board of appeals prior to beginning the work if they intended to obtain classification as a distinctive structure.

Abutters and neighbors of the property at 439 Stearns Street filled the meeting room to capacity for the discussion. Their major concerns included potential growth of the business in a residential area, traffic caused by trailers transporting vehicles, and potential fire hazards from flammables. Michael Baliestiero noted that he has no plans for expansion and will work on the cars himself. Since he can probably only work on one or two cars at a time, that should minimize street congestion caused by large vehicles. He plans to outsource noisy work, such as sandblasting, and to subcontract painting, a potential fire risk. He pointed out that he can safely and legally dispose of all waste materials generated by his business at the transfer station.

"I don't want to disrupt the neighborhood," Michael Baliestiero told the audience. "If there is something you don't like, discuss it with me."

Other local property owners classified the work Baliestiero does as a craft as opposed to mundane auto repair. They noted that he had saved and cleaned up a barn that he could have torn down more easily.

Setting a precedent through interpretation

The board focused on the renovation aspect of the Distinctive Structure Preservation bylaw during the Baliestiero hearing. The applicants had already completed significant alterations to the barn, including the removal of dormers and numerous windows, the replacement of the exterior clapboards, and installation of a garage door.

Michael Baliestiero described the dormers and windows as features added by a recent property owner who had used the building to raise chickens. In fact, removal of these items had brought the barn back to its original appearance. Nonetheless, the clapboards and garage door were clearly modernization.

"A barn that is 100 years old will need modification," noted board member Hal Sauer. "Does the barn as it exists now still qualify as something we want to preserve?" The question proved rhetorical as the group concluded that the special permit in question requires board involvement prior to alteration of a property.

"The board denies without prejudice the application under the Distinctive Structure Preservation bylaw because of the board's concern that sufficient modifications have been made to the structure prior to the application," summarized clerk Terry Herndon. "So, it removed the board's ability to judge the integrity and appearance of the exterior changes."

Permit under another approach

Board chair Midge Eliassen noted that the Baliestieros may still qualify for a special permit under another section of the bylaw for the more conventional "business use of home." She suggested that they consult the building inspector for interpretation.

The zoning bylaw which Eliassen cited allows for business uses which "may include but are not limited to" occupations such as a physician, dentist, lawyer, architect, engineer, real estate or insurance agent, artist, musician, teacher, dressmaker, and photographer.

"Some people have called my work art," said Michael Baliestiero. He has refurbished antique and specialty cars for about 30 years, both professionally and as a hobby. He operated such a business in Medford for nine years before selling it last year. Cars he has worked on have appeared in Hot Rod, Street Rodder, and National Street Rodder magazines. In 1990, Michael Baliestiero received the National Streetrod Association's Ridler award in Detroit for "Best Car Built" that year.

If neighbors find the Baliestiero home business intrusive, however, or feel the property owners do not address their concerns, they can request that the building inspector Bob Koning review operations at the site. If the residents or the Baliestieros object to his findings, they can bring the matter up with the board of appeals.

Library addresses parking space

The Gleason Public Library requested and received a variance from the board of appeals regarding parking requirements for an addition and renovation. Reconfiguration of the parking area will increase parking from 25 to 33 spaces.

Revision at the library includes the addition of a video and book drop-off. This feature will eliminate the need for library patrons to park when just returning items.

Carlisle built the Gleason Public Library in 1895 and dedicated it the following year.

Preserving a home

Andrew and Lois Cutter knew that they were applying for a lot of variances: they wanted to increase the size of their home at 498 Curve Street by more than 50 percent, and the addition would severely impinge on front and side lot-line requirements. Nonetheless, they had done their homework and the board approved their request.

The Cutter home borders the Great Brook State Park and is situated about 150 feet away from the nearest trail. It has a central fireplace with the building date, 1805, etched into the brick. The stone foundation of the existing one-story house could not support the addition of a second story without damage to its old footings. The amount of ledge in the hillside, the only direction not requiring a variance, would render expansion extremely difficult and costly. Moving the house would seriously jeopardize the antique elements.

The couple found the arrival of two children changed their comfortable home into a crowded one. If they had not been able to expand, they probably would have to move. Neighbors sent letters of support to the board. After the expansion, the number of rooms at the Cutter house will increase from four to eight, and the number of baths from one to two-and-a-half.

Through sufficient preparation and understanding of the variances required, Carlisle residents can preserve antique aspects that make their structures "home."

Checklist for filing a Distinctive Structure Preservation hearing

· Ask at the Gleason Library for help in researching your property. The structure must have been built prior to 1932.

· Review the Distinctive Structure Preservation bylaw while at the library.

· Contact the historical commission to gather more detail about your property.

· Prepare a proposed design of alterations. Be prepared to justify changes of antique elements as required by your business.

· Take photos of your existing property.

· Talk to your neighbors and respond to questions they may have about your business.

· Schedule a hearing for a special permit with the board of appeals. (If your business falls outside conventional business use of a home, you will need additional permits.)

· Bring all documentation to the board of appeals meeting. If you aren't prepared and need more information, your application might be denied "without prejudice" which means you will need to reapply in the future (a minimum delay of one month).

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito