Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Meeting Minutes

The Town of Harrisville Zoning Board of Adjustment held a public hearing on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at town offices, 705 Chesham Road, and via zoom.

Members present: Hal Grant Chairman; Charles Sorenson, Vice Chairman; Andrew Maneval, Rex Baker, Patrick Gagne, Jay Jacobs, Pegg Monahan

Members absent: Jeffrey Trudelle

Members of the public: Don Scott, Judy Putnam, Mark Bemis, Karen Bemis, Jim Putnam, Ed Moura, Sharman Howe, Dan Skully, Jim Phippard

Chairman Hal Grant opened the meeting at 7:01 pm. He stated that the voting members for the evening were himself, Charles Sorenson, Rex Baker, Jay Jacobs, and Patrick Gagne.  The board proceeded with a public hearing on the following:

Mark and Karen Bemis, 129 Eastside Road, Map 71 – Lot 1

Representing the applicants, Don Scott described the property owners’ request for a Special Exception under Article 5.3.3 of the Harrisville Zoning Ordinances to expand their existing home in a direction away from the lake. The dimensions of the proposed addition are 10-feet by 27-feet, or 270 square feet. The expanded structure would remain outside the 15’ property line setbacks from the road and side boundaries as required. The height of the addition will match the existing height.

Mr. Scott stated that the Bemises also propose a new front patio with retaining walls on either end. The patio will lie between the existing driveway and the new addition. They further propose on the west side of the cottage to replace the stairs to the lake with stepping stones and an infiltration swale to capture the driveway drain and roof water. Total impervious coverage will increase from 9% of the lot to 10%, well below the permitted impervious coverage limit of 30%.

Architect Tom Weller explained that the addition is designed to mimic the look and feel of the existing home and to offer more living space. He referred to the architectural drawings to describe the layout, reiterating that the increased footprint is in a direction away from the lake.

Returning to proposed improvements to water drainage on the property, Don Scott explained that, at this time, there are 3 pipes leading to the pipe closest to lake. The applicants propose to divert this path of water through an infiltration swale, horizontal to grade, in order to capture the water for slower filtration into the soil prior to entering the lake. The stepping stones will serve as the walkway into the lake.

The property owners’ septic system was replaced in 2009. It is designed for a 4-bedroom dwelling. Though the proposed addition includes a bedroom, the existing home only has two bedrooms; the system is thus adequate to handle the increased load to a 3-bedroom house.

Responding to a question from the board about any potential danger of water going onto the adjacent property, Mr. Scott explained that any overload will become a sheetflow rather than a concentrated flow, and will redirected back toward the Bemis’s property to infiltrate before it enters the lake. Judy Putnam spoke as an abutter to state no objection at all to the proposed project, adding any previous concerns about runoff have been addressed.

The property owners noted that the DES Shoreland permit was their next step in the approval process prior to filing for a building permit.  Mr. Weller spoke of the effectiveness of Mr. Scott’s infiltration bed, as he has witnessed on his own property.

With no further questions from the board or public, Chair Hal Grant closed the public hearing portion. Subsequently, Charles Sorenson moved to approve the Bemis application under the condition that the criteria under Article XX of the zoning ordinances were met.The board then addressed these criteria for a special exception as follows: The specific site is an appropriate location for such use.  All members agreed it is. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area. All agreed it wouldn’t. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians. Members unanimously agreed. Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. Members unanimously agreed. The proposed use shall comply with all the frontage, setbacks, minimum land area, sanitary protection, signs, and parking requirements for itself or its most similar use, except where specifically waived by the board, the reasons for such waiver to be set forth in writing by the board. Following reaffirmation of compliance with impervious cover limits, and that the application involves expansion in a more conforming direction, members unanimously agreed.

The board therefore unanimously voted in favor to grant the special exception.

Preliminary consultation, 60 Westside Road, Map 73 – Lot 16
Property owners and their representatives addressed the ZBA to request zoning guidance for the newly purchased parcel on Westside Road. Architect Dan Skully presented a conceptual plan that involves removing the existing dwelling and replacing it on the same footprint with a year-round, two-bedroom home, shingle style with clapboard trim.

Owner Ed Moura described the ecological issues involved with installing a new septic given the lot size and potential encroachment of the tank within the setback.  He and Mr. Skully explained that potentially rotating the axis of the existing footprint could alleviate the dwelling’s encroachment in the right of way.

The owners hope to collaborate with the town to improve stormwater runoff issues along this portion of Westside Road and the property, and they propose to remove some of the non-conforming elements, including an existing shed near the property line. They hope to orient the site work to leverage views of the water.

ZBA members explained that the required approvals would depend upon the exact proposal and whether or not the application involved a new footprint or any other additional elements, such as an expansion in volume or accessory structure.  During discussion of a proposed pergola, Andrew Maneval suggested the owners review the definition of open deck in the zoning ordinances, which may be relevant to their application.  Discussion also involved whether, and in what instances, a variance would be required rather than a special exception; for example, in the event of proposed rotation of the house and/or an expansion in volume. The owners reiterated their goal to make the property more conforming and to remove the existing encroachment.

The owners then explained that they concurrently are applying to the state for approval of a new septic system on the southeast corner of the lot with the leach field to be located on their property across Westside road. The state has approved the new design but it requires local signoff.  The septic would be on flat grade rather than steep slope.

Further discussion involved encroachment of the footprint of the house in the right-of-way and the potential need for the Select Board to grant an easement for installation of the septic. All agreed this, as well as location of the leach field relative to the road, is a Select Board matter and not under the ZBA’s jurisdiction. The owners will consider the board’s suggestions, talk to the Select Board, and return with a formal plan and application when possible.

Election of Officers
With the requirement to elect new board officers, not previously considered given the hiatus in applications and meetings in previous months, members addressed the matter.  Jay Jacobs moved to nominate Charles Sorenson as Chairman. All voted in favor. Subsequently, Rex Baker moved to nominate Hal Grant as Vice-Chairman. All voted in favor. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 pm.