Zoning Board of Adjustment
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
The Harrisville Zoning Board held two public hearing on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at Harrisville Town Hall, 705 Chesham Road.
Members present: Charles Sorenson Chair; Andrea Hodson Select Board Representative; Patrick Gagne; Jeff Trudelle; Hal Grant Alternate; Ed Tibbetts Alternate; Mary Ann Noyer Alternate. Members absent: Rex Baker Vice Chair
Attendees: Laura Bradford, Brian Bradford, Pamela Worden, Charles Faucher, Don Scott, Laura Susmann, Alton Chamberlain, Charlotte Chamberlain, John Cucchi, Anne Cucchi, Christine Destrempes, Susan Lunt, Ann Brehm, Kathy Scott, Susan Holland, Susan Phillips-Hungerford, Chris Dargie
The meeting opened at 7:00 pm. The Chair named the voting members for the first matter: Ed Tibbetts, Hal Grant, Pat Gagne, Andrea Hodson and Charlie Sorenson. Member Jeff Trudelle recused himself for this application, heard as follows:
Pamela Worden and Charles Faucher, 153 Skatutakee Road, Map 30 – Lot 51-1, applying for a special exception under Article 5.3 to expand and enlarge a non-conforming structure on the south shore of Lake Skatutakee. Don Scott, agent for the property owners, explained the proposal to expand the existing 748 square-foot structure with 158-SF deck by adding a 614-SF addition on the western end. The addition would be no closer to the lake or road than the existing cottage. The existing deck and stairs would remain with improvements.
Building description and proposal
Architect Susan Phillips-Hungerford described the 1938 fishing camp, built on 3 rocks. After considering different options to replace the foundation and update the structure to code, the architect and owners determined the best option to improve the camp within the confines of the shoreland protection requirements was to replace the structure, partly on the same footprint, but adding a connector and building addition.
The architect explained that the new building would be raised and would sit on an open-air frost foundation with a deep stone base and infiltration bed to allow the water to infiltrate prior to entering the lake, an improvement to existing conditions. The new building would be the same size as the existing, with same roof slope and height, a discreet design. The replaced building would be two stories, but just a half story higher, constructed of natural materials, designed to fit in with the architecture of the lakeside.
Impervious cover and drainage
Mr. Scott then addressed impervious cover conditions, existing and proposed, for the 1.8-acre lot. The existing camp has an impervious cover of 1.1%. With the addition, the calculation increases to 2.7%, far below the town’s limit of 30%. The Chair noted the house essentially sits on a separate parcel from the remaining acreage across the road and asked Mr. Scott to address the calculations for just the land where the new dwelling will sit. Mr. Scott exhibited that, even considering the lakefront acreage alone, which totals over 20,000 square feet, the impervious surface area would not exceed 4%, still well within the threshold. Further addressing drainage, Mr. Scott noted that the area of the property with the existing swale and culvert would remain undisturbed. The addition of the washed stone bed underneath the new building will treat water coming off all impervious surfaces, including the structure, road and parking areas.
Non-conformity, steep slope and health and sanitary requirements
Addressing non-conformity, Mr. Scott stated that the proposed addition, though it expands the footprint, is more conforming than the existing building in that the added structure will sit 4’ further from the lake. Addressing the slope of the land adjacent to the road bed, Mr. Scott stated that the dwelling sits on a plateaud grade of 8-10% grade, in a flatter area between the steeper 3’ slope that exists between the road and the structure and between the structure and the lake. The town ordinance for steep slopes is triggered when the grade exceeds 15% for a building.
Mr. Scott confirmed that the project, including the installation of a new septic, wouldn’t disturb any slope greater than 10%, with the leach field proposed for an area across the road, south of Bryan Drive, with a 6-8% grade. He acknowledged that an abutter has an easement to a well outside the 75’ radius, approximately 100’ from the proposed leach field. The new septic, an environmental improvement on existing conditions, would be installed in the existing tank location, as denoted on the submitted site plan. A new well on the west side of the lakefront area is also proposed.
The applicants confirmed they had not yet submitted their applications to DES for septic and shoreland permits. Asked, based on an abutter question, what would be submitted to the state, Mr. Scott responded a shoreland permit application, which must demonstrate that the project meets the state’s non-conforming structure provisions, as the structure does not meet the state’s required building setback of 50’. The applicants must demonstrate mitigation techniques for land disturbance. Proposed mitigation techniques include the open-air foundation and infiltration bed. Applicants under DES regulations also must also comply with expansion limitations. Property owners may expand within the formula of 7.5 square feet of structure per 1 square foot of water frontage. Mr. Scott is confident there is adequate square footage of waterfront to accommodate the proposal.
Asked by the chair about the existence of any wetlands, Mr. Scott stated he is not aware of any on site, but believes wetlands do exist off the parcel in the area that feeds the spring. The applicants do not propose any disturbance of those existing wetlands. Wetlands also will be addressed as part of the application to DES for septic design, demonstrating compliance with setback requirements.
With existing parking limited to Skatutakee Road, the property owners propose off-street parking on the south side of the road, fenced in with boulders, and will work with the Road Agent and Code Enforcement Officer to ensure driveway permit requirements are fulfilled. The applicants do not believe steep slopes under Article 13 are an issue for the parking area, as the grade does not exceed 15%. An additional parking space may be provided on the lakeside, where, previous owners had parked.
Addressing disturbance of vegetation to the area of the proposed addition, Mr. Scott noted that the only tree to be removed is a 12” maple, though a rhododendron may be relocated. The area is currently used for wood storage, a compost bin and also contains an old cistern. Mr. Scott showed several photos. No other vegetation there will be disturbed. Though only to be occupied seasonally, the home will be equipped for year-round use. Photos of vegetation show continual coverage along the bank. Mr. Scott emphasized that the remaining land will be left undeveloped, in its natural state, which will continue to provide a natural wooded slope and shoreline for a good distance and will continue to protect the lake.
Referring to the architectural drawings, the architect confirmed the highest point of the proposed structure, the west elevation with one and a half stories, would be 21’ from the bottom of the floor joist to the peak and 6’ higher than the existing peak. Accounting for the new foundation, the total height will not exceed 23’. The maximum building height under town ordinances is 35’ or 2 ½ stories.
Mr. Sorenson asked Mr. Scott why the board should allow an expansion that is not more non-conforming, but is an expansion that is non-conforming, if not as non-conforming as the original structure, on the small, thin piece of property?
Mr. Scott reiterated that the addition will be more conforming than the existing structure. His understanding of the provisions under Article 5 is a non-conforming structure may be expanded as long as it’s in a direction away from the non-conforming aspect, in this case setback from the lake. The proposed addition provides for increased setback; thus the applicants believe it is no more non-conforming than the existing structure. Mr. Sorenson responded that it is more non-conforming because it adds more non-conforming space to the waterfront.
Turning to the provisions under Article 20 outlining conditions for a special exception, the board considered the applicant’s arguments for granting the relief as follows:
220.127.116.11. The specific site is an appropriate location for such use. The new structure will be on its original footprint with an expansion of 610 SF to the west. It will continue as a single-family residence.
18.104.22.168. The use as developed will not adversely affect the adjacent area. In response to abutter concerns outlining potential adverse affects, the applicant responded that what exists is mostly a utility area with very little ground cover or vegetation. The high canopy overhead will remain, and there will be little loss of vegetation. On impact to the lake from the new structure, Mr. Scott stated that the impacted area is the flatter section of land, with minimal forest-floor vegetation. A drip edge and infiltration trench will capture stormwater runoff from the roof and direct it into the infiltration bed under the building. In the section with the addition, there will be a distance of 10’ between the drip line and the lake allowing for a reduction in water directly entering the lake due to the new infiltration bed. Water coming off all the rooflines would be treated through the new and far more substantial drainage system than currently exists.
Architect Susan Phillips-Hungerford spoke to the work of a geotechnical engineer to assess the site conditions and design the foundation on solid footing. The board proceeded with the additional criteria:
22.214.171.124. There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians. Mr. Scott spoke to the existing hazard of vehicles having to park in the road. The new parking area across the road will remove this hazard, limiting risk to pedestrian crossing from the parking area to the home’s entryway. The proposed parking spot on the lakeside will replace what serves as the construction area for the new building, after which it will be restored.
The chair then opened the floor to questions from abutters. John and Anne Cucchi of Loyd Lane noted the claimed water frontage is currently the subject of litigation in state supreme court. They asked, if the court ruling is not in the property owners’ favor, how this would affect the impervious cover calculations provided. Mr. Scott responded that the acreage for the questioned area is .2 and, as such, would not affect the impervious coverage calculations significantly. To an additional question from the Cucchis regarding wetland delineation, Mr. Scott noted this would be provided in the septic application to the state. Mr. Sorenson concurred that these important issues on wetlands and septic are in the state’s hands, and the board is forbidden from holding back a decision to await the state’s response. The ZBA must issue a decision based on compliance with the town’s ordinances, regardless of state issues. The Cucchis reiterated that the town voted to require that wetlands be delineated within 100’ of the spring, and cited the expenses they incurred on their own application to do so. Mr. Scott reiterated that no wetlands exist in the area of the proposed new building.
Abutter Chris Dargie of Bryan Drive noted he would raise his concerns with the state on the septic application. After the chair confirmed he had addressed the questions raised in the letter to the board from abutters Perry Nelson and Kristen Grubbs, he closed the public hearing portion to begin board deliberation.
The board returned to the special exception criteria under Article 20, including if the site is an appropriate location for a residential use (126.96.36.199.). Members agreed the continued residential use is appropriate for the district. Mr. Tibbetts added that the proposal to improve a single family home with a questionable septic system and questionable water source should be considered. The plan isn’t changing the use, he added, but is just changing how it’s used, likely in a much more beneficial way to the health and water quality of the lake.
In terms of adverse effect on the adjacent area (188.8.131.52.), the board acknowledged the abutters’ concerns but don’t see the height of the proposed addition as extraordinarily significant given the topography and surrounding vegetation. Several multi story homes exist along the road and across the lake. The board also felt the new water filtration methods and the new septic and well would mitigate any perceived negative impact and ameliorate current conditions.
Mr. Scott noted that, even if one or more additional trees would need to be removed for reasons of potential hazard, such a disturbance would still not be problematic as far as shoreland restrictions given the lush surrounding vegetation.
On the criteria requiring no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians (184.108.40.206.), the board felt parking conditions would be improved and otherwise noted the driveway permit process was outside the special exception considerations and within the Road Agent and Select Board’s jurisdiction.
220.127.116.11. Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. The submitted application notes that the new structure will tie into a new septic tank and leach field, and a new well will be dug and the existing waterline to the old well removed. With the state’s jurisdiction over septic and well, and no additional concerns about facilities raised by abutters or the board, members agreed the state’s determination would sufficiently address adequacy.
18.104.22.168. 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 chair noted the one aspect being considered for waiver was the addition, enlarging the volume and footprint of the building, in conjunction with the lake setback and road setback as delineated in the plans. Mr. Tibbetts added this was not a new non-conformity because of the footprint of the existing structure, but an intensification of an existing non-conformity, though the expanded portion is slightly mitigating. The board otherwise agreed the criteria were met.
Mr. Sorenson moved to approve the application to rebuilding the existing camp, 748 square feet, with a 610 square foot addition for a total of 1358 square feet, with an impervious cover of 2.7% as a result of the addition. Ed Tibbetts seconded. The board voted 5-0 in favor to grant the special exception.
Member Jeff Trudelle rejoined the board for the second matter, with voters named as follows: Jeff Trudelle, Charlie Sorenson, Andrea Hodson, Pat Gagne and Hal Grant.
Brian and Laura Bradford, 128 Chesham Road, Map 40 – Lot 13 – applying of for a special exception under Article 4.1.19 to operate a home-based business for animal interactions. The property owners explained their business plan. They currently raise cows, goats and chickens, on their residential farm and are looking to offer cow cuddling in their existing barn that contains two stalls. Customers can spend either a half hour or hour with the cows on an appointment or scheduled basis. The couple offer spots to three people at a time in each stall, or six total per session. Two cows are available at this time, with the possibility of expanding to four in the next two years. The Bradfords are the only employees.
For parking, the owners are using a large area that formerly served as a riding ring. They anticipate a maximum of 12 cars at one time, but believe that would be unusual as most customers carpool. Asked if they foresee the need for a second driveway into the parking area, the applicants noted they will pursue a driveway permit application with the state. For signage, they propose a business sign within the dimensions, locations and requirements of the sign ordinance.
Having addressed the employee criteria under Article 22.214.171.124, the board considered the additional Article 14 criteria as follows: 126.96.36.199. There will be no outdoor display of goods or 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 ZBA; The applicants confirmed this would be the case; 188.8.131.52. 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 applicants confirmed there would be none; 184.108.40.206. 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 or air pollution; electrical or electronic interference; excessive increases in traffic or in parking requirements. The board didn’t believe it would beyond the effects of typical farms. The applicants added that the by-appointment only scheduling of visitors would minimize traffic; 220.127.116.11. 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 ZBA. The property owners confirmed no exterior changes would be made to the residence or barn. 18.104.22.168. Parking for employees and/or customers shall be provided on-site. The Bradfords confirmed parking is available to visitors.
Mr. Bradford confirmed he had met with the Planning Board, which stated no site plan review was required given the state’s definition of agritourism. The Chair noted that changes to the business plan would require the applicants to return to the ZBA.
The chair asked about the port-a-potty on site for visitor use, with Andrea Hodson asking about the effect if not properly maintained and emptied, requesting to put parameters around the operation. The board noted it was possible to set conditions of business operation as part of the special exception approval. As an example, for hours of operation, the board considered requiring that close of business be 6:00 pm.
22.214.171.124. through 126.96.36.199.
ZBA members agreed the farm was an appropriate location for such a business. Members then agreed the home-based business would not adversely affect the adjacent area and, that given the size and location of the parking area, there would be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians. The ZBA considered the hand-washing station and port-a-potty sufficient and appropriate facilities for the use.
Abutter Alton Chamberlain requested that the port-a-potty be hidden or moved to a more discreet location. All agreed closer to the barn was more appropriate. Abutter Ann Brehm asked about signage. The applicants confirmed that, in addition to their permanent business sign installed on a post at their driveway, only an ‘open’ sign would be put out during open hours. The current ‘Parking’ sign is temporary and will be removed from the right-of-way and onto the property. The Bradfords reiterated they will pursue the required driveway approval with the state.
Laura Susmann asked about parking access and whether a culvert would be installed to help stormwater runoff. The board confirmed the state sets these requirements and, with a driveway application, the state would address any need for this. The board further discussed parking and the number of cars, with most members believing that restricting the number of cuddlers at any one time would minimize traffic.
Andrea Hodson then moved to approve the application for the home-based business contingent upon the following conditions: The business will operate no later than 6pm, but is permitted to operate 7 days a week; signage will comply with town ordinances, including in terms of location and size; the port-a-potty will be moved to adjacent to the barn and be properly serviced; the limitation on number of clients for animal interactions is 12; and driveway access must be permitted through the state and constructed to the state specifications. The board voted unanimously in favor.
Minutes of August meeting – The board voted in favor to approve as submitted.
The meeting adjourned at 9:00 pm.