The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 13, 2002


Trapped in the 'black hole of zoning bylaws'

Imagine owning a house which is split in two by the boundary that runs between Carlisle and Concord. Further imagine the need for a special permit to build an addition to one's house — two boards of appeals, two boards of health and even two addresses. Fortunately David and Carol Valchuis of 1756 Monument or 88 Chestnut Street seem to be before the last necessary committee, the Carlisle Board of Appeals (BOA), to request a special permit to build an addition to their single family home.

Their house is located on a non-conforming lot, which comprises less than two acres and lacks the frontage required by local bylaws. (The house would be entirely conforming if the lot were located in just one town). The current bylaw which deals with houses on land located in two towns was adopted in 1994. However, the Valchuis residence was constructed prior to the town's adoption of Section 3.1 of the zoning bylaw.

Mark Bobrowski, the attorney representing Carol and David Valchuis, explained to the board that because this home is a "prior, lawfully existing nonconforming single family structure," the Massachusetts General Law supersedes town bylaws, allowing a special permit to be granted so long as the addition is not substantially detrimental to the neighborhood. Bobrowski referred to this area of zoning bylaws as the "black hole of the zoning act."

The board agreed that the 480-square-foot addition would not negatively impact the neighborhood and that state and case law cited by Bobrowski was clearly relevant to the decision. No abutters objected to the addition, although abutter Jerry Colletta had called chair Terry Herndon with a concern about drainage in the area. Valchuis told the board that there was no reason for concern. A special permit was granted for the addition.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito