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Littleton, NH 03561
Phone: 603.444.3996
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May 9, 2017

Draft Zoning Board Minutes - May 9, 2017


LITTLETON ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT
TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2017
LITTLETON COMMUNITY HOUSE
120 MAIN STREET
6:00 PM
DRAFT MINUTES

PRESENT:  Chairman Eddy Moore, Jessica Daine, David Rochefort, Jerry LeSage, Ralph Hodgman, Guy Harriman (alternate), Jim McMahon (alternate), and Joanna Ray (recording secretary)

OTHERS PRESENT (signed in):  Andrew Dorsett (Town Manager), Joe DePalma (Public Works Director), Jeff Cozzens (CEO Schilling), Gerald Winn, Josh McAllister (HEB Engineers), Roland Abbott, Cristopher Salomon (SD Architects), Dave Ernsberger, Nathan LaFlamme, Jere Eames, Roger Emerson, Brenda Corliss-Simon, Ronald Lahout, Jim Alden, Rudy Gelsi, John Hennessey, and Ed King

Review April 25, 2017 minutes
Jessica made a motion to approve the minutes as written.  David second the motion.  The motion passed 5-0.

Roland Abbott, applicant / Gerald H. & Mona G. Winn, owners – ZBA17-06 – Request for a Variance relating to Article IV, Section 4.02.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a Commercial Establishment at 18 Pine Street, tax map 79-119, in the R-I zone.

Jessica reviewed the file.  The hearing was noticed in the Caledonian-Record, abutters were notified, fees were paid, and the application was signed.  Chairman Moore accepted the application as complete.  No conflicts were noted.  Gerald submitted a letter and Jessica read it into the record.  In the letter Gerald was pointing out how the proposed use is a continuation of a grandfathered use from when Lewis Trucking owned the lot. A copy of the letter will remain in the case file.

Roland Abbott presented photos of the property.  There is currently a business there, but it cannot be seen from the road and there are trees around the property.  Roland read the responses on the submitted application.

Ralph asked if the applicant was requesting to change the zone from R-I to Commercial.  The ZBA can only give permission to allow an unpermitted use.  Roland replied that he is not asking for a zone change.  Ralph asked if there would be items displayed for sale.  Roland replied that there will be a counter and perhaps a faucet on display.  Ralph stated it looks like it would be a retail shop.  Roland replied that there are only sales like that a few times a year.  It would be too expensive to set up a showroom.  His office will also be located here. There will be many renovations to the building.  The roof leaks and will be replaced along with the ceiling.  There will also be a new floor.  Trucks will be maintained in the back.  There is currently three work trucks, Roland’s personal truck, and 3 trailers. Other vehicles on site will be his wife’s and another part time office worker. 

Jerry asked if the business vehicles would be leaving the property at the same time the kids are walking to school.  Roland replied that it would be hard to say where the trucks will be headed on a daily basis, but he didn’t think it would be interfering with the kids.  The trucks drive by the school from their current location.

David stated that it sounded like the buildings will be used to store stuff for the trucks to deliver and that work will not be done at this location.  Trucks will be loaded with material so that they will not have to come back until the end of the day. 

The board reviewed where the commercial zone ends and the residential starts.  One corner of the lot is in the commercial zone.

Jim asked if large pieces of equipment such as furnaces and boilers would be delivered to this site.  Roland replied that sometimes it happens, but large items are usually delivered directly to the job site.

Chris Hodge, Zoning Officer, informed the board that he met Roland at the property to discuss the proposed business.  Due to the current condition of the property, Chris feels that the proposed use would be an improvement.  Chris did not agree with the argument of the grandfathered use because the use of the property has changed since Lewis Trucking operated there.  Chris also stated that he feels the property is currently a violation of the Zoning Ordinance. 

Jessica asked the board if they needed to act on the letter that Gerald submitted.  Chairman Moore replied that the board needs to decide if the use is grandfathered or not.  If not, then the board moves on with the application.  Ralph stated the use has significantly changed over the years.  Chris stated that his research shows the original use was for a shipping and receiving company with the owners living on the property.  Chris interpreted this as a home based business because it was secondary to living there.  Zoning was enacted after this business started.  The Winn’s purchased the property and used it for their business, but did not live there.   This is a change in use. 

There was no one present wishing to speak for or against the application.  Gerald stated for the record that he disagreed with the Zoning Officer, but had no objections to the proposed use being a good fit for the property.  He also stated that he never felt he was in violation of the Ordinance.

David discussed the letter submitted by Gerald. When zoning was put into place, Lewis Trucking was in operation.  Jerry asked who owns the vehicles now parked on the property.  Gerald replied that he uses older trucks for property maintenance.  He has extra vehicles there for repairs.  Gerald agreed that the property looks in disarray because of the older vehicles.  Two are not registered.  Roland will be purchasing the property and Gerald plans to remove all of the junk.  

Roland told the board that he would rather not bother with the letter from Gerald and focus on the variance request. 

Chairman Moore closed the public input portion of the hearing.  The board reviewed the submitted information.

The board agreed that the variance will not be contrary to the public interest.  David added that the Zoning Officer supports this and there are no abutters objecting.   The board agreed that the use would be consistent with the spirit of the ordinance because it is consistent with other uses in the area.  Ralph mentioned that there was an error in the applicant’s reply.  The property is not currently zoned commercial.  The board agreed that substantial justice is done.  The applicant will not be producing goods or manufacturing products.  The use is low impact.  The board agreed that the surrounding properties will not be diminished.  There has always been some type of business at this location without adverse effects.  The applicant is not asking for the property to be rezoned to commercial.  Jessica stated she did not feel the use was a continued grandfathered use. David stated he could make the argument that it is because of what was being done when the ordinance came into effect.  Jessica stated she feels the use stopped after Lewis Trucking.  Chairman Moore asked the board if they thought the proposed use was the highest and best use of the property.  David and Jessica agreed with that.  Chairman Moore stated that if someone disagrees, there is a 30-day appeal period. 

All board members agreed with the findings of the facts.

Jerry LeSage made a motion to approve without prejudice, Roland Abbott, applicant / Gerald H. & Mona G. Winn, owners – ZBA17-06 – Request for a Variance relating to Article IV, Section 4.02.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a Commercial Establishment at 18 Pine Street, tax map 79-119, in the R-I zone with the condition that the applicant comply with all Federal, State, and Local regulations.  This decision was based on the submitted facts and the proposed use being the highest and best use of the property.  David Rochefort second the motion.  The motion passed 5-0.

BrauFink LLC, Owner & Applicant – ZBA17-07 – Request for a Variance relating to Article V, Section 5.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow non-conforming setbacks at 26 Mill Street, tax map 84-22, in the C-I zone.

Jessica reviewed the file.  The hearing was noticed in the Caledonian-Record, abutters were notified, fees were paid, and the application was signed.  Chairman Moore accepted the application as complete.  No conflicts were noted.  

Jeff Cozzens introduced himself as well as Stu Cozzens, John Lenzini, Josh McAllister, and Chris Salomon.  The board received a letter from Jeff regarding their project and the other proposed improvements happening in the area.

Josh, from HEB Engineers, presented the proposal.  He stated that, based on the shape and size of the lot, construction would pose a hardship for any commercial use.  The proposed building will have a small deck, loading dock to get delivery trucks off the street, and is positioned about 7’ off Mill Street.  This is consistent with pre-zoning development from years ago.  Other structures are similar.  Other towns with revitalized areas do the same thing.   They did not want to impact the river, so they stayed away as much as possible.  This building will not be over the river like the previous ones.  Preventative measures to protect the river were discussed.  Schilling received their DES permit this week.  Jerry asked if the cement walls were still there.  Josh replied yes.  The plan is to keep them and not jeopardize the bank.  It will help stabilize it. 

Josh explained the need to have some of the building on solid, relatively level ground.  The interior operations have large tank fermenters that are 25,000 pounds and need a concrete slab.  The required setbacks leave a very minimal area to build.   This lot has many features that create a hardship.   The original plan had a deck that connected to the abutting property, but it was removed from the plan being presented tonight.  There is a small deck being proposed and it is compliant to the required setback.  There will be a small parking area for employees.  In the parking area, there is a catch basin.  This will catch all water from the lot as well as any runoff from Mill Street.  Minor grading will be done in the parking area, but none of it will be raised. Some lighting will be in the area for pedestrians.  David asked about sidewalk maintenance.  Josh stated that Public Works will continue to maintain Mill Street, but the owner has agreed to remove the snow from the sidewalk.  A letter regarding this was submitted and will be in the case file.  Asphalt curbing and sidewalk is planned.  Asphalt was chosen due to the easy reconstruction if the River District project continues down Mill Street.  There will be an ADA ramp on either end.  The narrow point in the road between the new construction and the on-street parking is 17’.  The loading dock will allow a wb50 to continue along Mill Street and then back onto the property.  This size truck will be on-site every other week.  Most of the deliveries will be from FedEx and UPS.  Sewer will be compliant with current regulations.  A utility pole is being proposed to relocate.  All DES Shoreland requirements have been met.  Per the Zoning Ordinance, there are no negative affects to the floodway and floodplain. 

Josh presented a plan that showed the available building area on the parcel.  It is very limited.  Any commercial development would need to apply for a variance.  Jerry asked about basement space.  Chris Salomon stated that the original buildings were below the floodplain.  Only half of the building will have a basement and there will be steps down the bank.  The basement will have mechanical space and some storage.

Ralph asked how much of Mill Street will be narrowed.  Josh replied that the pole location makes it look narrow, but in the area of the pole it is about 2’.  The pole needs to be moved outside the driveway.  The owners would like it underground and are working with Littleton Water & Light to see if that can happen.   Ralph asked if that will cost the town anything.  Andrew Dorsett said it would not.  This project does not affect the Town infrastructure.  Shilling has partnered with the Town for a CDBG grant that includes infrastructure.

Chairman Moore asked how wide the ROW is.  Josh replied 33’.  Jim asked about parking areas.  Josh replied that there would be six new parking spaces.  There is also some on the street.  David asked about whether or not deliveries made here will cover the current restaurant as well.  Jeff replied yes. Food deliveries arrive early in the morning.  Jeff feels this design will improve public safety.  There will be additional exterior lighting.  Jerry asked if fire truck will fit through this area.  Josh replied that if a trailer truck can fit for deliveries, then a fire truck should fit.  The 17’ travel way is adequate for trucks to pass.  The loading dock will keep delivery trucks out of the road.  Jim added that it will be a tight fit with the utility pole in place.

Jeff informed the board that they will work with the Town to put in granite curbing, but he prefers asphalt.  Chris added that he wants to coordinate with the River District plans.  David stated that he has no doubt the owners will clear the snow off the sidewalk, but what happens if someone buys them out.  David asked Joe DePalma if he was ok with this.  Joe replied that he is comfortable with the offer for snow removal.  Some merchants already do this.  Joe added that removal does not mean moving it to the neighbor’s property.  Josh replied that the intent is to remove the snow as it happens.  Jessica stated that it is a great benefit to the Town.  The Town will continue to remove snow as they have in the past.

Jeff reviewed some points that he made in the letter to the board.  This project will be a significant improvement to Mill Street.  It will improve traffic flow and enhance public safety.  The new structure meets DES shoreline requirements and controls erosion.  Mill Street pedestrian access will be improved.  This plan adds needed exterior lighting to Mill Street and addresses run-off on the property.

Ralph asked about the lack of plan for the utility poles.  Jeff replied that here have been talks with LWL regarding the poles.  If utilities go underground with the River District project, those changes will be shown on the plan.  This will be addressed during the building permit process. Jeff will be meeting with LWL tomorrow to discuss.  Joe stated the northwest pole is a concern, but the road width is more than adequate.  He brought a truck through for a test and measured.  Andrew noted that underground utilities are being discussed as part of the Hazard Mitigation Plan.  Ralph stated he is satisfied that it will be taken care of.

Brenda Corliss- Simon, abutter at 42 Mill Street, voiced concerns about drainage caused by elevation changes.  Josh confirmed that everything from her place will drain towards the catch basin on this property.  Nothing will drain onto her property. 

Josh commented on the riverbank stabilization.  It will be better than what has been in place.  Chris Salomon stated that keeping the old foundation will help the river stay the way it is.  Jeff added that they are working with Trout Unlimited to increase the number of fish.

Roger Emerson, 52 Mill Street, voiced concerns about lack of parking.  Jeff stated that there will be parking for 6 employees.  Other employees park across the river.  Roger asked about parking for customers.  Jeff replied that they use public lots and there is some on-street parking.  Roger mentioned delivery trucks parking in the road.  Josh replied that Schilling delivery trucks will be off the street and he cannot speak for the other businesses.  The loading dock is a foot or two below street level.  Roger stated that delivery trucks have issues going back up the hill in the winter.  Jeff replied that they seem to manage right now at their current restaurant. 

Brenda asked about the parking on the opposite side of the road and if they were allowed there.  Chairman Moore stated the Town does not have any parking regulations.  Jim Alden, 41 Main Street, stated that years ago there was no parking on the left side of Mill Street.  Signs were there and now they are gone.  Roger stated that when the businesses are closed, Schilling customers fill up those spots.  Jeff stated he could not confirm which patrons are taking up those parking spots.  Any business will create the need for parking.  Roger stated that this affects his business.

Jere Eames, business partner with Ron Murro, stated that this ownership is superb for Littleton. This project hired first class engineers and architects as well as provided employment.  Parking is a problem, but it is a good problem because it means people are coming into Town. 

Jim Alden stated he is in full support of the project and that this is important for Mill Street.  His building has a 5’ rear setback and he has deliveries behind the building to keep them off Main Street.  This project is consistent with the public interest and the neighborhood.  The sidewalk is privately funded and is needed because of pedestrians.  Jim feels this project will enhance property values and the hardship is in the specific and unique shape of the property.

Andrew Dorsett stated he understands that this meeting is to review the setbacks related to the size of the building.  Traffic flow is a concern as well and he contacted Greg Bakos, VP Bike / Walk Alliance for his comments.  Greg was the designer / engineer for the Main Street reconstruction.  Greg commented about how well bike and pedestrian movement is in this area.  He did not see this project affecting that in a negative way.  Greg also stated that the requested setback give an historic for this area. There have been some suggestions to remove parking on the opposite side of the street.  Greg did not recommend this.  He agreed parking is needed in this area, but also didn’t recommend parking on both side.  Greg suggested the Town review which side of the road the parking should be located. 

Andrew told the board that the Schilling improvements will fit with the improvements planned by the River District Commission.  The property owners are proactively working with the Town.  Schilling is partnering with the Town to help us raise funds through a CDBG.  This will save the tax payers money in regards to infrastructure repairs. The proposed improvements will meet the character of the neighborhood as well as be the highest and best use of the property.

Brenda asked what format will address the left side parking.  Eliminating some of the parking will widen the road.  Andrew replied that the Town will reach out to her during review of the on-street parking.

No other abutters wished to comment.

Rudy Gelsi asked if this project will cost the taxpayers.  He said it is hard to believe that it will cost the Town nothing.  Infrastructure costs money.  Jeff replied that Schilling will be paying for their own infrastructure updates.  Andrew added that because of the jobs Schilling will be adding, the Town will be able to apply for a grant that will cover additional costs to Town roadways, sewer and water.

Joe Lahout stated that Schilling has done a great job bringing people to Town.  He encourages the approval.

John Hennessey, River District Redevelopment Commission Chairman, stated the RDRC has been working to revitalize the Saranac, Ammonoosuc, and Mill corridor. This bond and development is good for the Town.  Schilling is part of getting a grant that will fix sewer, water, and roadways.  The grant is not a direct benefit to the Schilling property, but work that would need to be done anyway.  RDRC endorses this project.

Ed King, Littleton Coop, stated it is important to have Town support.  The project will have positive impacts and is a huge improvement to the area.  This will also help the local economy as well as other business and tourism.  He supports this project. 

Joe DePalma informed the board that Schilling has addressed all the concerns that have been brought to them.  The engineers are great to work with.

Jeff thanked the board for the time and the various Town support.

Chairman Moore asked the board if they felt they had enough information to make a decision tonight.  All board members agreed they had enough information.  Chairman Moore stated his concerns are in regard to the parking situation as well as the lack of details regarding utilities. He does not feel these items have been addressed by the Selectboard.  Ralph replied that Schilling will not be able to address the underground utility issue.  Ralph stated that he is satisfied with the information that was presented tonight.  Jerry agreed that parking is a Town issue that the ZBA cannot address.  David stated that the board had adequate information for the question presented to them.  Jessica asked if Chairman Moore’s concerns can be addressed after an approval by the board.  David stated that the abutters have concerns with parking, but that does not have any bearing on this setback issue.

Chairman Moore closed the public input portion of the hearing.  The board reviewed the submitted information.

The board agreed that the proposed will not be contrary to the public interest because of the limited available building area.  The spirit of the ordinance will be observed because the proposed use is consistent with the Zoning Ordinance and with other uses in the community.  Substantial justice will be done because the variance will allow an approved use to be constructed on a currently vacant lot.  Property values are likely to increase as the lot will be developed and continue to revitalize the area.  The board agreed that the limited building area within the setbacks is a special condition on the lot that impacts the ability for the owners to develop it.

All board members agreed with the findings of the facts.

Based on the submitted facts, Jerry LeSage made a motion to approve, without prejudice, BrauFink LLC, Owner & Applicant – ZBA17-07 – Request for a Variance relating to Article V, Section 5.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow non-conforming setbacks at 26 Mill Street, tax map 84-22, in the C-I zone with the condition that the applicant comply with all Federal, State, and Local regulations. The applicant must also work with the Board of Selectmen and other applicable departments in regards to parking and location of utility poles.  Ralph Hodgeman second the motion.  The motion passed 5-0.

Election of Officers
Chairman Moore stated he has been on the board for 34 years and it is time for a change.  Jerry made a motion to nominate Jessica as Chairman.  Guy second the motion.  All in favor.  Jerry made a motion to nominate Eddy as Vice Chair.  Guy second the motion.  All in favor.  New Chairman Daine appointed Joanna Ray as recording secretary.

At 8:50, Jerry made a motion to adjourn.  David second the motion.  The motion passed.

Submitted by,

Joanna Ray