Friday, August 13, 1999
Two additions breeze by board of appeals; one denied
The Carlisle Board of Appeals meets on the first Thursday of every month, as needed, and summer is no exception. Thus it should come as no surprise that lights were burning in the Clark Room on the hot summer night of August 5 as the board hosted three public hearings.
Bellows Hill addition
Sidney Levin and Nancy Maurer attended the meeting to request a special permit under zoning bylaw 6.3 for construction of an addition and deck for their home at 69 Bellows Hill Road. Bylaw 6.3 is the infamous 50-percent rule that defied all attempts at clarification earlier this year at Town Meeting. Thus, it remains for a non-conforming building, structure, or land that no extension shall be made which increases the total of all floor area by more than 50-percent over the total that existed when the use first became non-conforming.
"We've kept within the 50-percent rule and setback requirements," said Levin, to the relief of all the board members. Levin explained that they want to extend the kitchen and add a dining room off the back. The existing 24-foot by 36-foot house will receive a 22-foot by 18-foot addition with a four-foot deck in back. "We plan to combine the foundation work with installation of a new septic system to replace the old cesspool," said Levin. "This removes the chance of any truck damage to the septic system if the addition were done later."
Noting the walk-out basement, member Terry Herndon asked whether the land drops off steeply in back of the house. "Yes," replied Levin, "but the new septic system mound will help to level the back yard." Levin concluded his presentation by stating that the combined project is slated to start next spring.
Chair Midge Eliassen prompted an affirmative decision from the board by stating, "I see the house as totally confirming -- a conforming house on a non-conforming lot." The board also decided that the extension of the house is "not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood" in keeping with bylaw 6.3 and granted the special permit by a vote of 3-0.
East Street expansion
Richard and Madge Nickerson requested a special permit under the same rules of bylaw 6.3 for construction of an addition to their home at 564 East Street. The Nickersons intend to expand their one-car garage into a two-car garage and build a small roof over their front door for rain protection. "We're non-conforming," said Richard, "because our 1725 house is too close to the road or the road is too close to the house." The colonial, with its landmark stone wall, sits at the corner of East and Rutland Streets.
The new 12-foot by 20-foot garage will be built behind the existing garage and be invisible from the road. It is less than 50 percent of any combination of dimensions of the 2,500 square foot house. The 5-foot by 12-foot entryway roof will never be enclosed. "It's strictly for rain protection for visitors," said Richard Nickerson. "Otherwise, they would get soaked from rain pouring off the roof."
Board members agreed that the garage is a conforming addition and compatible with the historic building. As for the entryway roof, it does not increase the non-conformity, even though it intrudes five feet into the setback, because a major part of the house is closer to the road. The board therefore voted 3-0 to grant a special permit for the construction.
Maple Street garage
Two positive decisions by the board boded well for the third and final public hearing of the mid-summer evening. John and Joan Patterson came forward to request a variance, under zoning bylaw 7.5 from the requirements of zoning bylaw 4.2.1 regarding front lot-line setback, for construction of a garage at 738 Maple Street. The Pattersons live on the corner of East and Maple Streets across from the Greenough Land.
Bylaw 7.5 allows for zoning variances when the literal enforcement produces "substantial hardship." Speaking for the couple, John Patterson described the shortcomings of their driveway. "It's steep," he explained. "It drops seven feet in the 40-foot distance from the road. Our present basement garage is way down in a hole. It can't be plowed in the winter. We park at the top. We've slipped and others have slipped on the icy grade."
Patterson displayed plans for the new garage. It measures 24 feet wide by 27.5 feet deep, 6.5 feet of which provides a hallway between the garage and kitchen. The new garage is attached to the house and situated in the existing driveway, thus reducing the setback from the road to only 21.6 feet. The new garage floor is raised four feet above the old and the driveway slope reduced accordingly. "This gets the grade down to ten percent," Patterson disclosed, "and solves our driveway problem." Since the new garage aligns closely with the first floor of the two-story house, Patterson explained that there's room for an office over the garage. And the office would be more useful if provided with external access.
The summer euphoria of the board members vanished as they mulled over the situation. Herndon admitted that he was having trouble with the "hardship" argument. "True, you can't plow and it's slippery," he reasoned, "but the setback has been cut in half. Where do we draw the line? How far do we bend the town bylaws?" Eliassen sympathized that an alternate location of the garage is difficult. "It's a severely constrained lot because of the surrounding wetlands. However, there might be other ways to attack the problem," she suggested.
Member Scott Batchelder was no more forgiving than his fellow board members. Together they recorded three objections -- substantial setback infringement, questionable hardship and the possibility of other solutions. "The role of the board of appeals is to uphold the town bylaws," said Eliassen, as they voted 3-0 to deny the application and then adjourned the meeting.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito