The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 11, 1999


Board of appeals approaches variance applications cautiously

Residents don't like people telling them what they can and can't do with their land, but easements, compounded with Carlisle's topology and wetlands, often make it difficult for new homeowners to add a garage or a pool without applying for variances.

As Laura Baliestiero of 439 Stearns Street found, she could not obtain a variance to build an enclosed shed for horses on a 70-foot strip of her land. Town zoning bylaws require at least 80 feet for a structure of any kind, plus the square footage of the structure.

"This is an example of breaking up lots to maximize subdivision without ensuring that the two acres on a lot are usable," said alternate board member Hal Sauer.

The Baliestieros already have an open shed for horses on the lot. They wanted to build a closed shed to satisfy neighbor complaints relating to smell, noise, and the need to shelter the animals (two horses and two ponies) from inclement weather.

The board denied the application. The members did not believe that neighbor concerns sufficiently qualified as a hardship, and felt that the existing structure could be enlarged and modified without requiring a variance.

The board tabled a second Baliestiero application for a special permit or appeal for a small business until the next meeting. The applicant, Michael Baliestiero, was away on a business trip and his wife Laura felt he could better represent this application. The small business would involve upholstering and fabricating parts for specialty and antique cars. Town building inspector Bob Koning believes the work does not qualify under permitted "business use of home" guidelines.

Maple Street case convincing

Kieran and Cynthia Nunan approached the board for a second time requesting a variance from the required 40-foot side setback to build a garage and second-floor addition to their house at 854 Maple Street. The board had denied the application "without prejudice" on February 2 because they did not believe the applicants had sufficiently investigated other locations on the property for the addition and had not looked into a land swap.

This time, the Nunans appeared with a presentation and attorney Howard Hensleigh. They fully explained why other property sites would not work for reasons relating to topography and the well location. The nearest house, as described on the plans, would be 132 feet away. Any land swap would require purchasing the entire next-door lot, and impose financial hardship on the Nunans. In investigating a land swap, the Nunans found that the neighboring property had been subdivided so that a driveway ran along the lot line closest to the proposed addition. The driveway was not wide enough for any structure but added a buffer zone of at least eight feet needed for the Nunan's addition to meet the setback requirement. The board found the Nunans' case convincing, and approved the variance.

"I have to admit I could've gone either way," said board chair Midge Eliassen, reiterating the need for applicants to come to meetings prepared. "The presentation and its thoroughness swayed me."

Heald Road construction

At the meeting, the board also approved an application from Deborah Bentley and John Kaufman to permit construction that will connect a house and a garage at 128 Heald Road. The house and addition would meet all zoning requirements; however, the garage became a non-conforming structure over the years as zoning bylaws changed.

Bentley explained that when the garage was built in 1977, it fully met zoning requirements so it is grandfathered as a non-conforming structure. She described the addition, and the board concurred that it conforms to current zoning requirements.

Although the Carlisle Board of Appeals does not like to grant variances, it has shown that it will consider them for owners who clearly understand why they need one and can fully respond to questions about their property.

"We apply the zoning bylaws with reason," concluded Eliassen. This approach may make things less clear-cut in Carlisle than in Concord where that board does not approve any variances. Carlisle does give the homeowner the opportunity to be heard. In compelling cases, homeowners can obtain a variance.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito