Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Meeting Minutes

The Harrisville Zoning Board of Adjustment met on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 at the Harrisville Town Offices, 705 Chesham Road.

Members present: Charles Sorenson, Rex Baker, Andrew Maneval, Patrick Gagne, Pegg Monahan, Jeff Trudelle

The Chair opened the meeting at 7:00 pm. He named the voting members as follows: Pegg Monahan, Patrick Gagne, Jeff Trudelle, Rex Baker and Charlie Sorenson. The board then proceeded with the matter before it.

John Sandri, 233 Bonds Corner Road (Map 20 – Lot 33-1), applying for a Special Exception under Article 4.1.19. and 20.1.2. of the town zoning ordinances to operate a home-based business to store equipment and limited materials for stonework, tree work and light excavation. The property contains 3.64 acres in the residential/agricultural district.

Mr. Sandri described the business. He is the sole employee who lives in the dwelling; three  additional employees reside elsewhere. Their business takes them to customers’ homes or job sites, so the only time they work on the property is to pick up or return vehicles or equipment, or to maintain equipment. Chairman Sorenson noted the ZBA, in such applications, is guided by Article 4.1.19 Home-based Businesses, permitted in all districts by special exception subject to the conditions outlined. The board asked Mr. Sandri to address each of the criteria, as follows: It shall be carried on by residents of the premises, and a maximum number of non-resident employees as approved by the Zoning Board. Mr. Sandri reiterated that 1 employee lives on the property, and 3 do not. The business includes stonework, light excavation and tree-work. He has 1 lead stone mason, 1 arborist, 1 who repairs equipment and does excavation, and a 4th who assists with all facets.

He reiterated that little is done on his property. Employees come to get vehicles needed to go directly to job sites. Asked about fuel for the vehicles, the applicant explained that one truck has fuel storage on it, and otherwise is stored in sealed 5-gallon containers atop the garage’s concrete floor. The shop space on the property stores only non-flammable oil and tools. Any used oil is disposed of weekly. It shall have no outdoor display of goods, and no outdoor storage of materials or equipment unless screened from roads and surrounding properties by natural or structural means to such an extent and in such manner as may be specifically required and approved by the Board of Adjustment.  During Covid, Mr. Sandri stated, he had to pre-buy and store stone, some of which remains on premises, but this is not the norm. The majority of stone there now is from the property itself and is unrelated related to the business. The tree work is mostly done in winter and not on the property, other than occasionally to cut firewood. Most wood from jobs is sold immediately. For light excavation, some piles of loam exist from the property itself, as well as some compost. All equipment is stored in the interior garage bay, and consists of a chipper, loader, tractor and 4 trucks total. The office is in the house.

Mr. Sandri plans to add more screening in the coming year, including planting a row of Norway spruce trees in front of the garage barn. He added that he also plans to fence the area around the barn, which is set back 80’ from the road, for additional screening.

Existing woods shield the property from the abutter to the east, who submitted a letter in support of the application. No abutters are directly across the road, and existing vegetation lies between the road and the barn.  No neighbors are visible from the property. The residence or accessory buildings shall not provide window displays or other characteristics or features normally associated with commercial use, except for a permitted sign. The applicant confirmed that no displays or signage exists and he doesn’t plan to have either. It shall not have an adverse effect on the environment and water resource supplies or the surrounding properties from impacts including but not limited to noise, odor, smoke, dust or lights; soil, water or air pollution; electrical or electronic interference; excessive increases in traffic or in parking requirements. The owner noted no smoke-producing activities, other than from the vehicles, and that not all vehicles necessarily are used every day. He added that work is done in the daytime and that, in winter when the sun sets earlier, lighting is on sensors.

When asked if he plans to expand or grow the business at this time, Mr. Sandri explained only to specialize in what they do, not to expand operations. Mr. Sorenson noted that any approval is based on the business plan as submitted. If this changes, he must return to the ZBA, as part of the ZBA’s jurisdiction relates to number of employees allowed for a home-based business. There shall be no change in the exterior appearance of the residence or other structures on the property as a result of the use, unless specifically approved or required by the Board of Adjustment. The applicant explained he has already received approval to construct a lean-to, shed roof off the side of the barn for tool and equipment storage. Mr. Sorenson noted that any structural changes related to the business also must come before the board. Parking for employees and/or customers shall be provided on-site.  Mr. Sandri described where his employees park, in the driveway area behind the barn.

Following review of the Article IV criteria, Mr. Maneval referred to the zoning ordinance definition of home-based business, which must be incidental to the primary use of the property as a residence. If the property owner decides to live elsewhere, the business could not remain at the current location. Additional questions from the board related to fuel and fuel storage. Mr. Sandri confirmed very small quantities are stored on the property and always in secure places and containers. The board then turned to the Article XX criteria for granting a special exception. The specific site is an appropriate location for such use.  The board agreed. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area. Members agreed, with the chair noting that this is true subject to screening and protecting the existing buffer. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians.  The board agreed. Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use.  The applicant confirmed that most equipment is stored inside, with only vehicles outside. Members agreed that the condition was satisfied. 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. Mr. Sorenson stated that the board is not waiving any conditions but outlined requirements for screening by way of trees and fencing. Mr. Sandri requested to have until next winter, or the end of 2023, to complete this, noting the trees would be 5-6 feet in height initially, and that he will keep as much of existing as is healthy but also will need adequate sunlight to penetrate to help the new plantings grow. The board agreed.

Mr. Sorenson subsequently moved to approve Mr. Sandri’s application for a special exception for the operation of a home-based business, employing 4 non-residents, and involving excavation, treework, and stonework. The business use of the property is to consist of storage of equipment in property structures, and vehicles on the property, with such screening to be completed substantially prior to year-end 2023, according to the applicant’s presentation in the application materials.  Pegg Monahan seconded. Members voted unanimously in favor.

The board noted a formal Notice of Decision would be forthcoming, and asked the applicant to follow up with the board if delayed with completing the conditions.

Town of Harrisville’s Roadside Digital Sign – The board returned to discussion of the recently approved digital sign adjacent to the fire station and town hall. Pegg Monahan noted the town would like to have 2 images in sequence and expressed concern this constituted “animation” and thus may not qualify under the approval granted by the ZBA. The chair and members confirmed that the sign as applied for and currently operating does not meet the definition of animation, and is compliant. Any further review by the ZBA would only be prompted by complaints to the Select Board.

The ZBA approved its December 2022 minutes.  The meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.