Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Meeting Minutes

The Zoning Board of Adjustment held a public hearing and regular meeting on Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at the town offices.

ZBA Members:  Charles Sorenson, Chair; Rex Baker, Vice Chair; Patrick Gagne; Pegg Monahan, Alternate; Mary Ann Noyer, Alternate.

ZBA Members Absent: Jeff Trudelle; Hal Grant; Andrew Maneval.
Attendees:  Tom Killilea; Dorothy Killilea; Matthew Wayland; Katie Hamon; Jon Richardson; Scott Stone; Cynthia Stone; Jesse Huard; Rosemary Cifrino.

Rex Baker called the meeting called to order at 7:07 pm.

Agenda and voting members – Following review of the agenda, Chairman Sorenson and Vice Chair Baker noted that the voting members for the evening were Charles Sorenson, Rex Baker, Patrick Gagne, Pegg Monahan and Mary Ann Noyer.

Public Hearing, Thomas Killilea, 61 Silver Road (Map 51 – Lot 19), applying for a Special Exception under Article 9.1.6. to construct a 24’x20’x8’ woodshed within the shoreland buffer, 42 feet at its closest point from the waterline. The required setback under Harrisville Zoning Ordinances is 75 feet.

Mr. Sorenson invited the applicant to explain the use of the proposed structure and to describe the exact location, dimensions and orientation of it in relation to the shoreline, property setbacks and road. Members referred to the plot plan Mr. Killilea submitted with his application.  Mr. Killilea stated that the non-conformity of the lot is due to the location of the entire house within the 75’ setback.

Addressing a question, submitted in writing by ZBA member Hal Grant, about the need for the structure given the existing structures on the parcel, Mr. Killilea explained his family’s need to store approximately 10 cords of wood, and the need to shelter the wood, which currently lies under tarps. The price of oil has led the family to rely increasingly on their two wood stoves.  In addition, the applicant stated that the existing smaller shed on the other side of the house was put in by the previous owner for chickens. A 20×8’ (160 square foot) temporary shipping container will be moved.

Addressing existing conditions regarding the shoreland buffer, Mr. Killilea confirmed that the woodshed will not replace any existing vegetation. He described that immediately outside the house is a garden and some forsythia, and otherwise a stone driveway runs between the house and the proposed location of the woodshed.

Abutters spoke in favor of the proposal. No concerns were raised, either in person or through correspondence to the board.

Subsequently, Chairman Sorenson addressed Article 9.1.6. of the Zoning Ordinances and discussed the criteria which must be met for a special exception to be granted. Mr. Sorenson shared the language in Article 9.1.6. as follows:

9.1.6. No dwelling or structure other than docks or fences shall be erected closer than seventy- five (75) feet from the high-water mark. In the case of existing non-conforming structures, no additions shall be made which will be closer to the high-water mark than the nearest part of the existing structures. No structure shall be located closer than fifteen (15) feet to the edge of any right-of-way, or to the side or rear boundaries of the lot. Accessory buildings such as storage sheds and gazebos but excluding automobile garages may be located within the seventy-five (75) feet setback as a special exception provided: The location and construction of the structure is consistent with the intent of the ordinance to maintain a vegetated buffer, which would meet the requirements of 15.8.1. The structure is required as a shelter either for humans, equipment, or firewood. The structure is customary or incidental to residential and recreational use. Building placement: Buildings shall be placed in such a manner as to minimize impact on habitat and at such a location as to have the least impact on the watershed.

The Chair summarized that the intent of the ordinance is to allow woodsheds and similar structures if they meet the conditions set forth. Members further confirmed with the applicant that there would be no impact to the buffer that exists, that the structure’s use is to store firewood for heat, and that such use is customary and incidental to the residence.  They further confirmed that the proposed location would have the least impact on the watershed.

Members then discussed in which direction the roof would be sloped. The property owner explained that the proposed design is for the roof to slope in a perpendicular direction to the pond but, if the board preferred, the shed’s orientation and roof pitch could be turned. The original orientation, Mr. Killilea stated, stemmed from feedback from the neighbors that this would be less noticeable. Following discussion, board members agreed that reorienting the shed 90 degrees would be the best approach, but that the minimum distance of 15’ from the road must be maintained and that the approved plot plan must note this 90-degree rotation.

With no further questions, Mr. Sorenson moved to approve the Thomas Killilea August 3, 2022 application for a special exception under Article 9.1.6. to build a 24’(L) x 20’(W) x 8’ (H) wood shed as delineated in the application. The application meets the following criteria: 1) The location and construction of the structure is consistent with the intent of the ordinance to maintain a vegetated buffer, which would meet the requirements of 15.8.1; 2) The structure is required for a shelter…for firewood; 3) The structure is customary or incidental to residential and recreational use; 4) Building placement: Buildings will be placed in such a manner as to minimize impact on habitat and at such a location as to have the least impact on the watershed.

Pat Gagne and Rex Baker seconded the motion. During discussion, Rex Baker noted that the reorientation of the roof pitch lengthens by 4’ the structure’s distance from the pond and directs runoff toward the road versus toward the water. The vote was unanimous, 5-0 in favor, to approve the special exception. The Chair noted that a final Notice of Decision will be issued. Vice Chair Baker initialed the application, dated the approval August 17, 2022, and noted it is conditioned upon the 90-degree change in orientation.

At 7:25 pm, Chairman Sorenson stated that the public hearing portion of the meeting was closed. The ZBA continued its business as follows:

Island Street application before the Historic District Commission – Having received a public hearing notice from the HDC for August 23, 2022, applicant abutter Jon Richardson requested guidance from the ZBA about how to require that the application also be reviewed by the ZBA. The proposal before the HDC includes modifications to a barn that sits on the property line between the applicant and Mr. Richardson and Mr. Richardson feels the modifications indicate a change in use from storage to living space.

Chairman Sorenson explained that the proper process is for the applicant to go before the HDC as a first step. Subsequently, prior to being issued a building permit, the applicant must prove that the proposal meets the zoning ordinances. If relief from the zoning ordinances, and thus an appearance before the ZBA, is needed, then it is the role of the Code Enforcement Officer to direct the property owner to this board. It is not within the HDC’s purview to grant such relief.  It is also unclear at this point whether any other land use board review will be required.  This point should be flagged to the HDC and the applicant.

Mr. Richardson stated his concern that, in 2012, the prior owner added a second story to the barn and wasn’t required to go to the ZBA. He does not want the same result to occur. Mr. Sorenson noted the board supports the land use process as it is designed and is supposed to work. A letter from Mr. Richardson to the ZBA Chair, HDC Chair and Code Enforcement Officer explaining these concerns has been submitted for the record.

NHMA Summary of Changes to Land Use Regulations –  Following the passage of House Bill 1661, NH towns have been informed of applicable changes to planning and zoning guidelines. Chairman Sorenson noted that most of these relate to Planning Board regulations.

The changes that also pertain to the ZBA include the ability of ZBA members to pursue training from NHMA in addition to the already approved trainings offered by the Office of Planning and Development. ZBA members discussed and agreed on the importance of training and support the Chair’s intention to strongly encourage the Select Board to require, rather than recommend as is the case now, training for all appointees to the town’s land use boards.

Mr. Sorenson also confirmed that the town’s fee schedule for land use applications and permits has been posted on the website and at town hall.  The deadline for posting is August 23.

The land use regulation changes further require that the ZBA include written findings on decisions and rulings. The meeting minutes can no longer be the sole source of justification of a board’s decision, including findings of fact under the applicable zoning ordinances.  The findings must detail how the board reached its decision. Failure to do so could result in the court’s reversal of a decision.

Though the ZBA typically acts on applications within 30 days, the updated state regulations now require for a 90-day timeline; however, if an applicant provides insufficient information for the board to make a determination, the board is allowed to deny the application on this basis, without prejudice to the applicant submitting another application. In connection with this change, the board will review the Rules of Procedure, with recommendations for amendments to be shared by the Recording Secretary in time for consideration at the next ZBA meeting.

Regarding the increased restrictions on local planning and zoning boards for properties used for religious purposes, the ZBA Chair believes these need further clarification by the OPD, NHMA and the Courts before local municipalities can fully understand what can and can’t apply under this use.

Consultation regarding new roadside signage at Town Offices/Fire Department –  Pegg Monahan explained that the Select Board recently received grant money under ARPA to replace the town’s roadside billboard on Chesham Road with a digital sign that can be programmed from town office computers. The sign is used only for informational purposes and ease of communication with residents. It would be similar in size and style, but electronic. The SB understands that, under the town’s sign ordinances, ZBA approval is required and soon will file an application for a special exception.  If the sign will be larger than 6 square feet, an application for a variance will also be required. The board noted it looks forward to reviewing the application.

Scott Stone – Scott Stone, who recently received Planning Board approval for a subdivision on Blood Hill Road, discussed the potential need for relief from the Zoning Board for setback from wetlands on one of the newly created lots. Following discussion, the Chair recommended that Mr. Stone speak to the Conservation Commission about the specific nature of the wetlands, which would then factor into the type of relief needed, if any, and whether a special exception or variance may be required from the ZBA. Without concrete plans in front of it, the ZBA cannot make any judgment at this time.

Noise complaint – In response to a request to the ZBA to act on a noise complaint , the ZBA Chair explained that the board has no enforcement authority and that complaints should go to the Select Board.

ZBA Meeting Minutes 6/15/2022 – Pegg Monahan moved to approve the minutes of the June 15 meeting. Patrick Gagne seconded. All voted in favor.

The meeting adjourned at 8:20 pm.