Town of Harrisville
Zoning Board of Adjustment
Meeting Minutes
June 19, 2019

The Town of Harrisville Zoning Board of Adjustment held a public meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at the Town Offices located at 705 Chesham Road.
Members present: Hal Grant, Chairman; Charles Sorenson, Vice-Chairman; Rex Baker; Patrick Gagne; Jeffrey Trudelle; Kathy Scott, Alternate Select Board Representative; Pegg Monahan, Alternate; Andrew Maneval, Alternate; Mary Ann Noyer, Alternate

Members absent: Jay Jacobs, Select Board Representative

Members of the public: Julie Gargan, Phil Gargan, Jay Raynor

Meeting called to order at 7:01 pm.

Chairman Hal Grant noted that the voting members were himself, Charles Sorenson, Rex Baker, Jeff Trudelle and Kathy Scott. The matter before the board was as follows:

Julie and Gary Gargan, 155 Seaver Road, Map 40-Lot 101 
TheZBA heard the application for a variance, under Article 20.1.4 of the Zoning Ordinance, for removal of an existing 12’ x 16’ wood shed and placement of a new shed, 14’ x 28’ in dimension, 25’ from Seaver Road. A variance was sought by the applicant as the required setback from the public right of way for structures in the Residential and Agricultural District is 50 feet (Article 6.1.3).  The proposed structure would meet the side boundary setback of 40 feet.

Ms. Gargan explained the reasons for the proposed location and why the location options were restricted. She  stated that the shed is already built and would be moved from another property. In addition, the septic is located in the rear yard, which is sloped, and becomes very wooded, and the house has both electric and telephone wires connected on either end to the roads. When asked why the new shed could not be located at the northern end of the property, Ms. Gargan noted that an existing smaller wood shed is on that end.

The applicant exhibited photographs and a drawing of the lot, showing that complying with the 50 foot setback would put the structure within 5 feet of the house. She also pointed out the steep slope and woods on the garage side of the house.

Charles Sorenson noted that, for a variance to be granted, the board would have to find that all of the following conditions under Article 20.1.4 apply. He read them aloud as follows: There would not be a diminution in value of the surrounding properties as a result of the grant of the variance requested. The grant of the variance requested would not be contrary to the public interests. By granting the variance requested, substantial justice would be done. The requested variance would not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance. Unnecessary Hardship: Literal enforcement of the provisions of the ordinance would result in an unnecessary hardship as defined by New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 674, Section 33, as amended.

Board members asked if it were relevant that the proposed shed would be moved further away, and thus become less non-conforming, than the existing non-conforming shed. Mr. Sorenson explained that, because this is a variance application, and not a special exception, this fact had no bearing on the applicant’s request.

The board had no issues with the first four conditions. The key issue with the fifth condition, the unnecessary hardship provision, Mr. Sorenson stated, was the need to establish that “owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, no fair and substantial relationship exists between the general public purpose of the ordinance and the specific application of that provision, and the proposed use is a reasonable one…” In brief, the applicant needed to explain that it would be a hardship not to be able to do what was requested or to have to do it somewhere else.  Mr. Sorenson asked if Ms. Gargan could explain more specifically why there wasn’t another possible location on the property.

Ms. Gargan replied that the most level part of the back yard contained the septic, and that getting the pre-built shed back there with the woods, granite that would need to be excavated, and the existing overhead wires would be extremely costly.  She also worried about positioning it too close to the house and the wires. When asked if it could be reoriented, the applicant noted the issues of being too close to the house and the wires, as well as the steep slope on that corner of the property. She noted that, upon visiting the site, the building inspector had agreed the proposed location made the most sense. The shed will be used for small livestock.

Mr. Sorenson pointed to two considerations: the spirit of the ordinance and the public interest. He stated that the applicant was improving the public interest and meeting more of the spirit of the ordinance by moving it further off the road. In the past, steep slope has been a factor in approving variances as has unreasonable cost. It was noted that building a shed from scratch on steep slope would be easier than moving one there, but that the applicant was attempting to repurpose a structure.

With no further questions or discussion, Charles Sorenson moved to grant the variance. Rex Baker seconded. The board voted unanimously in favor, 5-0.

Spring Zoning Conference
Members shared a discussion on the issue of conflict of interest as it relates to a board recording secretary serving in the dual role as a voting member. Attorneys at the conference noted that, though not illegal, this was discouraged and not best management practices, given the possibility of having knowledge of information prior to voting on a matter that could bias an opinion. Members discussed different interpretations, including statutory, of this, noting that any information to which a recording secretary is privy is contained in public files and that, as a matter of course, members recuse themselves when a conflict of interest arises. Rex Baker added that, according to additional legal opinion at the meeting, however, should a board find itself short voting members and with the need to call on the recording secretary/alternate member, the board may ask the meeting attendees if there is an objection, as long as it is made clear that no confidential information would factor into voting.  Mr. Sorenson then reviewed RSA 673:14 and the statute regulating disqualification. Mr. Maneval summarized that a member should disqualify him/herself if, in any instance, there is an inability to be fair.

Election of Officers
The board voted unanimously to reelect Hal Grant as Chair and Charles Sorenson as Vice Chair.

Meeting Minutes of April 17
The board voted to approve the minutes of its past meeting.

Updated zoning ordinances
Members received inserts for their copies of the Zoning Ordinances, which were updated following the vote at Town Meeting and will arrive from the printer in the coming weeks. The insert contains the new language for the provisions which were amended.

Meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.