Friday, September 24, 2004
Two applications illustrate BOA challenges
The Board of Appeals heard two special permit requests that were a study in contrasting styles. Daniel and Kim Donovan of 337 Fiske Street, and Albert Ira Gould who bought the former Goss home at 1230 Westford Street, were before the board on September 9. The applicants owned houses situated on nonconforming lots, less than two acres, and needed relief from the board. Both applications for special permits were approved, although the application of Albert Gould clearly challenged the board members.
An easy decision
The Donovans have owned their small six-room house since 1989. Situated on a non-conforming lot, it requires a special permit in order to build an addition. The bylaws of the town usually limit such an addition to no more than 50% of the square footage of the current house. In the Donovan case, the original footprint of the house, about 1,600 square feet, would be increased by an addition of 372 square feet, well below the permitted addition size. The board voted quickly to permit the addition, with its usual findings, that the addition is not more than the 50% allowed increase, doesn't increase the non-conformity of the lot, and doesn't affect the neighborhood.
Pushing the limits
The Gould application was quite another story. The applicant bought this small house and built a new five-bedroom mounded septic system, which according to Gould, dwarfs the present house. Gould informed the board that he was going to tear down the current house and build a larger one on the back of the property, complying with setbacks.
Gould contended that since he was building a new house, he did not have to comply with the 50% rule. When pressed by board members as to the size of the tear-down house, or the size of the house he intended to build, Gould told the board that he didn't know the square footage of the old house, and that the board was, "entitled to their opinion, but I don't think I need to give you the square footage ... I don't know what I will build." The board continued to ask for details but Gould insisted that he had no knowledge of the exact specifications for either house. When asked if he would agree to the limitation of no more than 50% of increase in the new house, he said definitely that he would not agree.
Present in the audience was abutter John Frodigh, who said that the old house was a starter house that fit the lot perfectly. He was concerned about the size of the new septic system, for which the grading comes to his lot line. "That septic system destroys the whole street." He agreed that with this new system, the old house doesn't fit anymore. He expressed concern that a huge house will be put in. Gould said, "I have no intention to build a monstrosity." Gould told the board he intended to build a two-story Colonial with attached garage.
When discussing the application, board member Hal Sauer wanted Gould to present the board with the desired specifications. Also, he contended that the spirit of the bylaw says no to this type of special permit, as it states that the BOA may authorize an enlargement to no more than 50% of current house size. Gould's argument that it wasn't an enlargement but was a brand-new house and would not be subject to this requirement flew in the face of the spirit of the bylaw, argued Sauer.
The board was concerned that, "He is coming in through the back door, building a new house on a lot of less than two acres." Board member Terry Herndon asked the new BOA chair, Cindy Nock, to check with town counsel about the precedent of allowing a special permit such as this. "If we let houses be built on smaller than two acres, we can establish a precedent."
Member Shann Kerner told the board that "if we deny this permit, we will definitely have a 40B application, which would yield the town some affordable housing."
The board referred frequently to the Donovan application as a contrast in how the bylaws should operate, as they were clearly upset with Gould's inability to provide any details that are typically required in such an application.
Ultimately, the board decided unanimously to grant a special permit to Gould to construct a house and garage within a 65- by 65-foot footprint, with no more than two stories plus basement.
© 2004 The