The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 1999


Board of appeals raises the bar for subdivision variances

Month after month, and more recently week after week, the Carlisle board of appeals has struggled with variances related to partitioning of land. At the May 6 meeting, the group held its ground.

"I have a real problem with someone coming in here creating his own hardship," said Phyllis Zinicola, associate board member. "You cannot subdivide and create or increase a nonconformity. That sends a very bad message to the town. There is an increased tendency for people to subdivide, with building lots going for $300,000. It is important for us to establish the criteria for what we will allow."

The board agreed that creation of a lot line by an owner cannot create a hardship. Other members present included Terry Herndon (acting chair, due to the absence of Midge Eliassen), Scott Batchelder, and associate member, Hal Sauer.

The case under discussion involved resident John Swanson's request for a variance to preserve a historical structure on his property at 1056 Curve Street. In 1764, Abe Hutchinson built an ice house for the preservation of milk and dairy products. The lower level of the structure, now filled in, once housed ice blocks. This foundation makes moving the structure impossible. Today, with a wooden floor, the building serves as a summer house for picnics.

The entire Swanson lot, including the family farmhouse, covers about 11.5 acres. Swanson subdivided and created a new 2.3-acre building lot. The new lot line, however, comes within 40 feet of the existing ice house, causing the ice house to violate the sideline setback.

Swanson already has approval for the building lot and its proposed house from the planning board, board of health, and conservation commission, even though the placement of the house is 90- percent within the buffer zone. By tearing down the ice house on his property, Swanson could proceed without needing a variance. However, he wants to save the unique structure.

Moved by the historic nature of the ice house and a desire to preserve it, the board elected to deny the application "without prejudice." Although Swanson had effectively demonstrated the historic significance of the ice house, the board felt that Swanson had not adequately explored ways to achieve the 40-foot sideline setback by redesign or reorientation of the proposed house or through realignment of the property line. Swanson can also obtain justification from other boards that the zoning variance is really the best and only possible solution. Equipped with this information, Swanson can approach the board again if he still requires a variance.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito