The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 15, 2002


BOA ponders rule that limits size of house additions

Faced with a request to enlarge an old house on a tiny lot, the Carlisle Board of Appeals (BOA) pondered an old rule whose logic it doesn't understand. A town bylaw requires that any addition to a house on a non-conforming lot be less than 50% of the original square footage. Why?

New member Cindy Nock

But before tackling its business at the November 7 meeting, board members first welcomed new member Cindy Nock. Nock is replacing long-time board of appeals clerk and member Midge Eliassen, who retired from the board this fall after serving for many years.

88 School Street

The BOA listened to the petition of Robert and Laura Schofield of 88 School Street, across from the Carlisle School, for a special permit and variance to expand their home which was built in 1930. The house, built before zoning in Carlisle, is situated on a lot which is six-tenths of an acre. All houses on non-conforming lots (less than two acres) must come before the board for a special permit when building, and the size of the addition is subject to the 50% limit.

The original house had 1,718 square feet and was occupied by the Young family for many years. The current owners got approval to increase the size more than the 50% in 1998, but due to high cost built only to 2,615 square feet, below the 50% limit. Now Schofield is requesting to build on again, to approximately 2,900 square feet, which would allow him to build a bedroom on the first floor, and change a small bedroom upstairs into a study. The addition is conforming in terms of setbacks from the road and property lines.

Controversial 50% rule

The discussion centered around the controversial 50% rule. At one point the board asked Town Meeting to change the bylaws so that these homeowners wouldn't be so penalized and the board would not have to make arbitrary decisions on the 50% rule. The town rejected the change. Board chair Terry Herndon said that either town residents did not understand what was being asked, or the town vote simply indicated a desire of the town to keep a supply of smaller houses.

Herndon said that when researching where the 50% rule came from, he found that no one knew for certain. Long-time resident Charles Evans had told Herndon that he recalled it had to do with an argument between neighbors.

Board member Hal Sauer said that the board is able to grant variances. "50% is arbitrary. The major concern is whether it is deleterious to the neighborhood. We have precedents [allowing larger additions] and no one is objecting. Should we adhere rigidly to a by-law which we can't explain?" The board agreed with Sauer and granted the Schofields the necessary permit and variances to increase the size of his house by a total of 70% from its original size.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito