Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Zoning Board of Adjustment held a public hearing on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at town offices, 705 Chesham Road.

Members present: Charles Sorenson, Chair; Jay Jacobs, Select Board Representative; Jeff Trudelle; Hal Grant; Andrew Maneval, Patrick Gagne, Rex Baker, Pegg Monahan
Members of the public:John Stinchfield, Tom Tolman, Aaron Wechsler, Tom Hanna, Larry Athan, Betsy Athan

Chairman Charlie Sorenson opened the public hearing at 7:00 pm. He noted the voting members for the evening were Jay Jacobs, Patrick Gagne, Rex Baker, Jeff Trudelle and himself, and that the matter before them was as follows:

Lawrence and Elizabeth Athan, 148 Silver Road (Map 51– Lot 26), applying for a Special Exception under Articles 5.4.1., 5.3.3., and 5.3.2. Mr. Sorenson noted the proceedings would include the applicant presentation, board questioning, public comment and board deliberation.

The property owners summarized their family’s longtime presence in, and love of, Harrisville. They purchased their own property in 2018, and have been exploring options to repair the home’s structural damage and flaws, including roof, interior stairwell, and foundation. On the advice of their contractor, Tom Tolman, they have determined it makes more sense to take down the existing home and rebuild it rather than incur the steep expense to rehabilitate. Also for structural and financial reasons, the Athans propose to replace rather than repair the garage.

Mr. Tolman explained how they arrived at the current plan before the board to replace the house, expanding it by 4’ to the north. The proposed expansion is away from the lake, toward Silver Road, and would, among other improvements, allow for code-compliant stairs between floors without using up a large portion of valuable floor space. The new roof will have a steeper pitch to handle snow load. The entry porch will be enclosed and the steps will be moved to the south side of the house. The applicants noted the proposal meets all setback provisions in the zoning ordinances.

Exhibiting drawings, engineer Aaron Wechsler, described plans to improve drainage on the parcel and to reduce the impervious cover percentage. In addition to structural changes, including cutting 6” off the garage, the driveway will have a slightly smaller footprint because of reduction in width. The driveway surface will consist of porous, 10” crushed stone, nonwoven geotextile fabric, which prevents stone from filling with debris and pervious pavers and pea stone. The proposed patio surface also will be porous, as will the 5’ x 8’ deck, which will be the same dimensions as existing. The new house will lie 1.5 feet further from the lake. Mr. Wechsler noted that impervious surface percentage will be reduced from the existing 32% to 29%, slightly below the ordinance threshold, and that the porous surfaces will meet the state requirement for such.

Mr. Wechsler then explained that the grade of the parcel will be made more gradual, which will help improve drainage between the leach field and the house. He noted the leach field meets the 75’ setback requirement from the lake reference line, while the tank will be located 60’ back. The state requires a minimum of 50’ for septic setback.  A well is proposed for the northwest  corner of the property, with a portion of the well radius proposed to go off-lot. The applicants confirmed that the Shoreland Permit application to the state has not yet been filed, as they chose to obtain local approvals first. The application to DES will follow ZBA review.

The board and applicants then reviewed the definition of impervious cover in the Harrisville Zoning Ordinances. The definition reads: Any modified surface that cannot effectively absorb or infiltrate water.  Examples of impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, permanent or temporary structures, roofs, decks, patios, and paved, gravel or crushed stone driveways, parking areas, and walkways.Mr. Wechsler stated he believes the proposal meets both town and state definitions for impervious surfaces, and that the drainage improvements planned will allow stormwater to effectively pass through, collect, and slowly percolate into the soil. He noted the system is designed for a 10-year storm event.

Upon further questions from board members, the applicants noted the new roofline will still allow for equal distribution of water and that, though a second story is proposed, the number of bedrooms will still be two, though a couple of hundred square feet of living space will be added to each floor.

Abutter John Stinchfield expressed concern about proximity of the well to the property boundary and asked whether this 2.5 foot separation was acceptable to the board. Mr. Wechsler explained how the well radius of 75’ clears the septic and leach field, and explained why the well location was chosen, adding that there was really no other option because of the radius requirement. In response to Mr. Stinchfield’s concern about the well as an impediment for pedestrians who pass through the area for access, the applicants responded that they didn’t believe there would be any impediment given the low profile of the well head.

Subsequently, applicant attorney Tom Hanna presented their case for why the Athan’s proposal meets the five conditions of the Special Exception criteria under Article XX of Harrisville’s Zoning Ordinances as follows: The specific site is an appropriate location for such use. Mr. Hanna noted the proposal to replace the residence is in keeping with the existing residential neighborhood. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area.Mr. Hanna offered that the environmental improvements, specifically, will be significant, and the improvements overall will benefit the neighbors and surrounding area. Asked by the board if there will be any visual impacts to abutters, the applicants noted most views are to the south to the mountain or else directly to the lake. There is no home across the street. The applicants noted the application package exhibits, which depict views from various perspectives.  No abutters present, or absent, raised objections. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians. Nothing proposed could be considered a nuisance or hazard, from the applicants’ perspective, as a two bedroom house is turning into a two bedroom house with a safer garage to be built. Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. Mr. Hanna stated that all facilities will be new, and state of the art, that the property would have better contours and drainage, and the roof will be an improvement as well. 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. The special exception request relates to the non-conformity of the lotand the non-conformity of the existing structure from the water and from the side setbacks. The 4’ foot addition will be in a direction away from the non-conforming aspect, which is the lake, thus conforming to the town’s ordinances. Overall, the proposal presents an improvement, Mr. Hanna stated, and he believes it meets all criteria and required conditions for a Special Exception.

As the board had no further questions or comments, Charlie Sorenson moved to approve the Special Exception, conditional upon approval from the state for the septic and consistent with the application materials presented to the board and the conditions outlined therein, including the drawings and minutes of the meeting.  Members all agreed and voted unanimously in favor to grant the Special Exception.  The Chair will draft the formal Notice of Decision.

Election of Officer
Following the conclusion of the public hearing, Charlie Sorenson noted the need to elect a new Vice Chair, in light of Hal Grant’s stepping down from the position. Mr. Sorenson moved to name Rex Baker Vice Chair. Jay Jacobs seconded. All voted in favor.

Minutes of previous meeting
Members moved and voted unanimously in favor to approve the minutes of the April 21 meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 8:15 pm.