Board of Adjustment Hearing, May 19, 2014

At its May 19, 2014 meeting the board conducted its annual business elected Tim Kelly as Chairmain. It then entered into the hearing for:

Mr. & Ms. McDonald “propose to place a shed/outbuilding to the right side of Merriam Hill driveway ~ 15’ from the road, at their residence in the Historical Village Residential District zone.”

Unfortunately the above was taken from the town web site and is a recycled notice for a different hearing by the same applicant. However, it was pointed out that the correct notice was published in a pulp based application where the notice is for a variance to a setback requirement on Old Ashby Rd. and abutters had also been notified by mail.

Hearing opened at 8.00 p.m.

Ms. McDonald is a former board of adjustment member so is known to the board, but a discussion of the relevance of RSA 673.14 (“if that member would be disqualified for any cause to act as a juror upon the trial of the same matter in any action at law”) was not raised. Mason is a small community and finding board members who do not know the applicant is frequently not applied.

Ms. McDonald spoke to the five points required by the zoning statutes which would allow a variance for their second shed location. You can find the criteria and legal discussion of these conditions here on page 9 (caution pdf link). The most difficult of these is the hardship clause and much space is dedicated to it. We qoute from the legalese:

“Henceforth, applicants for a variance may establish unnecessary hardship by proof that: (1) a zoning restriction as applied to their property interferes with their reasonable use of the property, considering the unique setting of the property in its environment; (2) no fair and substantial relationship exists between the general purposes of the zoning ordinance and the specific restriction on the property; and (3) the variance would not injure the public or private rights of others.”

Three of applicant’s neighbors spoke against granting the variance, their primary argument appeared to be that the shed was “out of character” with the neighborhood and hence would diminish property value. No neighbors were present to speak for granting of the variance.

Ms. McDonald responded that they have always kept wood piles covered with tarps in that location and that the shed would actually improve property values.

A neighbor countered that wood piles are temporary and the shed is a structure that would never go away.

The building inspector reported on the history of the structure (this is an ex post facto application, see photo here). The town currently has no road agent, and no highway department person was present to represent that position.

After taking testimony, the board entered its “deliberative phase”. It soon became apparent that the submitted paper drawings and pictures did not satisfactorily answer some of the siting question for some board members. For example, the applications setback request is not only from the road, but also the neighboring lot line, but how far? Select chairman Moser who was in attendance in the audience, suggested a site visit. The board voted (with alternates voting) 5 to 3 in favor of said visit.

Hearing continued to the June 2, 2014 7:30 p.m. at the applicants location. Since this is a continuation, no further notification for the hearing need be given.

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