Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Meeting Minutes

Members present: Charles Sorenson, Chair; Rex Baker, Vice Chair; Andrea Hodson; Jeff Trudelle; Hal Grant, Alternate.  Members absent: Patrick Gagne

Attendees: Jason Dragon, Jessica Dragon, Donna Stone, Ranae O’Neil, Scott Stone, Leon Nikiforakis, Don Scott, Matt Wayland, Meghan Killilea

The Chair opened the meeting at 7:00 pm. He immediately moved, under RSA 91 A3:II, to enter non-public session to share advice of counsel. All voted in favor. The board then heard counsel’s input regarding the options available to the board in considering the adverse impact provision of the zoning ordinance in the context of  granting a special exception. No action was taken. At 7:10 pm, the board moved and voted in favor to exit non-public session.  Meeting attendees rejoined the board.

The Chair stated that the voting members for the evening were Hal Grant, Jeff Trudelle, Rex Baker, Andrea Hodson and Charlie Sorenson.  He explained the public hearing process to the applicants and attendees.

Jessica and Jason Dragon, 41 Silver Road (Map 51 – Lot 17) – applying for a special exception to rebuild an existing camp near its original footprint, moving the structure four feet further away from Harrisville Pond and four feet further from the side property line, in both aspects toward more conforming directions. The applicant further proposes adding a deck along the north side of the house leading to the driveway and toward the road, and replacing an existing 8’ x 10’ shed with a 12’ x 20’ storage shed. 

Don Scott, representing the applicants, walked the board through the existing and proposed conditions, shown in the submitted site plans. He referred to the property boundaries, noting the recent survey confirmed the acreage as .28 and not .17, as originally recorded in town records. Mr. Scott pointed to the square footage of the proposed dwelling, deck and shed, noting the impervious cover on the site would total 29%, within the 30% limit allowed under the town ordinances. As part of the project, the applicants will add infiltration trenches to improve drainage, install a culvert along the road, plant a rain garden along the shore to improve the vegetative buffer and add plantings along the northern boundary line. A pervious surface patio will replace the existing patio and the existing deck will be moved to the second story of the house.  A portion of the deck would be covered.

Mr. Scott also noted how the proposed shed and house would be located within the required 15’ side setbacks. Owing to the storage shed’s proposed location within the required 75’ setback from the lake, the applicant seeks a special exception under Article 9.1.6. An application to DES would be filed pending ZBA review.

The ZBA also reviewed photographs of existing and proposed conditions.  Because of the restrictions presented by the existing non-conforming structure, the property owner proposes to raise the height to increase the living space, going from a single story to a 2 ½ stories. Mr. Scott stated the new height complies with the town’s ordinances.  The applicants explained that the ½ story would have a 5’ knee wall, rather than a full height ceiling, to keep the structure under the 35’ limit.

Chairman Sorenson noted that he did not believe, were the subject lot vacant, that the spirit or terms of the lakeside residential ordinance would allow the proposed structure.  Given the structure is preexisting, the special exception authorization in Articles 5 and 20 provide an avenue, as long as the applicant demonstrates that the required criteria are met.

With the applicants’ presentation having covered the Article V provisions related to non-conforming structures, the board asked them to turn to the special exception criteria under Article XX, as follows: The specific site is an appropriate location for such use. Mr. Scott noted the existing structure is a residential dwelling and the proposed is the same. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area. Mr. Scott stated the property owners removed the eaves on the design to minimize impact and noted no trees would be removed in building the residential structure. 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.  Mr. Scott explained that a new well would be drilled on the northwest corner of the property, the septic is adequate as no additional bedrooms are proposed, and stormwater runoff would be better managed through enhanced drainage measures. 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. Scott reiterated that the property owners seek a special exception for expansion of a non-conforming structure in a more conforming direction, as well as for the location of a new shed within the 75’ setback from the lake.

The board then opened the hearing to questions from the public, asking that questions remain focused on the dwelling only.  Meghan Killilea asked about the applicants’ plans for the house and the reason they needed to expand vertically.  She and members of the Stone family raised concerns that the existing views from across the road would be impeded by the height of the new structure and didn’t believe the photos of existing and proposed views were accurate representations of current views and views following construction. The board discussed at length the existing view of the lake, in both summer and winter, from the abutting lot across the road and how this view would be affected.

In addition to the aesthetic impact, the board considered whether an adverse impact on property values would result from the alterations to the site. The Dragons cited numerous improvements to the camp and property that they had already undertaken and that the camp was built by Mr. Dragon’s great grandfather. They argued that these prior improvements, and the additional proposed work, would only enhance property values in the immediate neighborhood, a statement made to them by a realtor. The Dragons further pointed to a letter of support from an abutter, submitted as part of the application and acknowledged by the Chair and board as having been read. The Chair noted that the view of this abutter was not affected in the same way as the abutter across the road.

In response to abutters’ questions about the owners’ plans for the house and about the design of the deck and ramp, the Dragons noted it was being built for year-round use and for the long term, with ADA compliance in mind for later years.

Leon Nikiforakis, owner of the cottage across the street from the subject site, stated he can sit on the porch now and have a good view of the whole lake but won’t be able to with the new structure, walkway and deck. He believes the alterations will devalue his property. He further opposed the board’s prior approval of another 3-story structure on Harrisville Pond, believing homes of this size to be too large for the neighborhood. His family wants to stay there and preserve their cottage, which is not their primary residence.

Photos of Mr. Nikiforakis’s view were requested and will be supplied to the board.  The applicants believe existing vegetation blocks the abutters’ complete view of the lake and will send these photos to the board.

Addressing why they need to raise the height of the house, the applicants noted this is due to the small footprint and the height of the water table. They are concerned about locating anything other than utilities on the first floor.

The Chair then closed the public comment portion of the hearing, asking the board if it felt it had enough information to make a determination. Members requested further clarity on the property value issue, whether in the form of a financial impact or an adverse impact on view. They expressed interest in seeing an opinion from an appraiser or realtors as to any financial impact on the surrounding properties.  The board noted its noting understanding of the legitimate interests of the applicant, but also of adjacent property owners. The board also did not believe that it had sufficient information regarding the actual visual impact of the proposed house on the views from the Nikiforakis property.

The chair noted one option was to continue the application to a date certain, following receipt of additional documentation from both the applicant and the abutters. The applicants stated their concern that any information and opinions for either side would always be subjective. They confirmed, however, that they could furnish the information within the week.

The board then turned to the matter of the removal of the existing 8’ x 10’ shed and the addition of a new 12’ x 20’ shed, noting the relevant ordinance to be 9.1.6., which reads in part: 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. Mr. Scott reiterated that the site would benefit from additional native plantings and a rain garden. The structure is required as a shelter either for humans, equipment, or firewood. The shed is to be used to store boating and water equipment. The structure is customary or incidental to residential and recreational use. The structure is accessory to the dwelling and for the purpose of 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. Mr. Scott described that the roof pitch was favorable for managing runoff and that the shed would be located between the 50’ and 75’ setback from the lake, and otherwise meets right of way and side setbacks.

In response to an abutter’s question, the applicant confirmed the foundation for the shed would be stone and it would be 8’ high. It would have electricity for light.  Addressing special exception criteria under Article XX, the board considered: The specific site is an appropriate location for such use. This is a waterfront property and the storage shed is for water equipment, located as far as possible on the lot from the lake. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area. The applicant noted the normal use for waterfront. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians. All agreed. Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. All 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 confirmation from abutters that they supported the shed’s location, the Chair noted the only waiver being granted was for its location within the 75’ setback but that the shed otherwise complies with all other provisions.

Subsequently, Hal Grant moved to grant a special exception for the storage shed as presented to the board. Andrea Hodson seconded. Members voted 5-0 in favor.

The applicants confirmed they will forward the requested materials about the impact of the proposed 2 ½ story structure on the opposing abutter to the Select Board Office for distribution to ZBA members.  The abutter Leon Nikiforakis will present visual evidence of current views from his house.

The chair then confirmed that the public hearing was continued to Wednesday, August 16, at 7:00 pm at town offices. Renotification of abutters is not required under board rules.

Meeting minutes of June 2023 – Members voted in favor to approve the June minutes.

The meeting adjourned at 8:53 pm.