Saga of the Woodshed is On Again

Is a woodshed a building or an accessory structure; does it depend on how big it is? These may seem like a trivial questions, but the answers may determine the fate of the McDonald wood shed.

At the July 8, 2014 Selectmen’s meeting, Silas Little, attorney for Mark and Mary McDonald, asked the board for a second stay of the selectmen’s cease and desist issued as a consequence of the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s denial of a setback variance (see here and it’s continuation).

The McDonalds were told by the selectmen that their woodshed required zoning board of adjustment setback variance. The variance was subsequently denied by the zoning board. However, the zoning board’s “findings of fact” do not appear to address the question of whether the “small 6′x12′ shed” actually requires one; the board appears to have taken the selectmen’s opinion about that at face value.

Mr. Little indicated that an appeal had been filed with the zoning board based on this ommission. It will now be up to the board to grant or deny the application for a rehearing. If granted, it may be back to square one. If denied, the next stop may be superior court.

Since the fate of the shed is now again under appeal, the selectmen granted Mr. Little’s request to stay the order to remove it until such appeals are exhausted.

In our January 23, 2014 article we offered zoning regulation IV.P as something to be considered. We present it again here:

IV. P. Conventional accessory structures such as play equipment, tent, mail box, outdoor fireplace, and similar structures normally found on such lots, also roadside stands, fences, warning signs, walls, trees, shrubs and all vegetation may be located on the lot in any location that does not interfere with the normal flow of traffic on a public right-of-way.

What was denied the McDonalds is a variance to regulation V 7:

V 7. Front, Side and Rear Set Back. No building shall be located within 35 ft. of any right-of-way or lot line.

As both the select and zoning board are now finding out, there are a lot of nuances to interpreting the meaning of even simply worded zoning regulations. The saving grace may be that when the zoning regulations conflict with themselves, the preample states that “Whenever any requirement of this Ordinance is at variance with the requirements of any other lawfully adopted rules, regulations, or ordinances, the most restrictive, or that imposing the highest standard, shall govern.”

However, we expect this to be an interpretation argument, and not a conflicting regulations one. Yet, strange things happen at zoning boards and in court. In the mean time, the bills to settle the issue correctly, just keep piling up.

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