Planning & Zoning Board Notices & Minutes

Oct 23, 2018

Draft Zoning Board Minutes - October 23, 2018

6:00 PM



PRESENT:  Chair Jessica Daine, Vice Chair Jerry LeSage, Jim McMahon, David Rochefort, Ralph Hodgman, and Joanna Ray (recording secretary)


EXCUSED:  Eddy Moore and Guy Harriman


OTHERS: Joe McMahon, Barbara Whiting, Milton Bratz, and Justin Roshak


Chair Daine called the meeting to order at 6:00.  All regular board members were present.  The only hearing on the agenda was announced.


Edward & Jessica Taveras, Owner and Applicant – ZBA18-11 – Request for a Variance relating to Article IV, Section 4.02.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow parking  commercial vehicles  from a transportation business at 37 Pike Ave, tax map 79-199, in the R-I zone.  The abutters and newspaper were notified and the hearing fees were paid.  Chair Daine accepted the application as complete.  Jim McMahon stated he is related to one of the abutters and chose to recuse himself.  No other conflicts were noted.


Chair Daine read the facts the applicant submitted.  The application stated that they will improve the property and it will be used for the purpose of parking.  The building has been used commercially for 15 years.  The parking will be private and for storage purposes only.  There will be no public access.  The use will not harm the general public or other individuals and will improve the appearance of the property.   There will be improvements by cleaning up the property.   Literal enforcement of the ordinance would result in unnecessary hardship because it would make the existing building useless.  The intended use of the existing building will be the highest and best of the property.  The property has been used as a commercial property and the intended use will be less onerous as a private parking storage lot.  No commercial activity will be conducted at the private parking storage lot.


Barbara Whiting was representing the applicants.  Barbara stated that the applicants are not seeking to do business at this location.  The purpose is for parking.  The garage makes it convenient to do maintenance on the company vehicles.  The applicants own seven cars and seven vans.  Barbara informed the Board that the property has a lot of trash and the Taveras’ plan to clean it up so that the vehicles can go out and come in easily.  There will not be vehicles going in and out all day long.  Sometimes it happens at 10:00 at night.  No customers will be brought to the property.  Chair Daine asked if the employees would drop off their personal vehicle and then leave with the company vehicle.  Barbara confirmed that.  Barbara added that they current have vehicles parked at Taveras’ property located on Farr Hill Rd.  There have been no complaints until the property recently went up for sale.


Ralph asked for clarification on the use of the garage.  Barbara explained that the maintenance done in the garage will be for the Taveras’ vehicles.  The space is also rented to someone that works on their race car.  This was happening before the Taveras’ purchased the property.  Ralph stated he was concerned with broken down vehicles remaining on the lot.  Barbara replied that if it is broken down, it gets fixed or disposed of.  It would never stay on the lot.


Vice Chair LeSage asked Barbara to explain what type of business Taveras owns.  Barbara replied that they are a medical transport business that travels all over the state.  They bring people to doctor appointments, hospitals, drug rehab, and nursing homes.  LeSage asked if vehicles go in and out all day.  Barbara replied that this is by appointment only.  The drivers get a schedule for the day.  No special license is currently required.  Drivers with wheelchair access vehicles are starting to need certification.  They also have an ambulance for non-emergencies.  It is called an ambulette.  There are about 14 employees.  Vehicles would start to leave around 7:00 AM.  David asked if there would be any leaving at 5:00 AM.  Barbara said that could be the earliest time a vehicle would leave.   


David stated he went to the property and could not tell there was any business there.  Barbara said the person working on the racecar does it in the evening.  Ralph asked if the maintenance shop would be for the applicant’s own business.  Barbara replied yes.  Two at a time could fit in the garage for oil changes or a tire change.  They do not have a mechanic employed there, but one is on call. 


Vice Chair LeSage asked about noise.  Barbara replied there will be no noise.  Not all of the vehicles will be warming up at the same time.  Ralph asked how this would affect the traffic by the school.  Barbara replied that the traffic should not be affected.  They are occasionally help up in traffic in some places.  Not all of the vehicles will be leaving at the same time.  She schedules the appointments out of her home in Lisbon.  The business is run out of her home, but the vehicles need a place to park.   No fuel tanks will be on site.  Barbara stated these are commercial vehicles but not any different than a regular car.  The site will be kept clean.


Joe McMahon, abutter, has lived directly across the street for 12 years.  Joe informed the Board that the previous owner of the Taveras lot used to park his motorhome and classic cars in the garage.  They were his person items.  The recent activity there is the garage is rented to Tim Hines, another abutter, for his race car hobby and wasn’t in and out of the property every day.  Tim using the garage was no different than using his personal garage.  The garage is only big enough to fit two of the Taveras vehicles. The property needs to be cleaned up.  Joe wanted to know if the vans have backup alarms and how can a business be run there without water or sewer.  There is only electricity in the garage.  Joe has a septic system and wanted to know if Taveras would be putting one in as well.  He added that there are kids in this residential area and the road is a dead end.  Joe stated the application is for a parking lot but part of the discussion is about maintenance and subletting the garage.  He has seen activity out of regular business hours already without the approval.  Would this property be considered commercial and be sold to the next person that way?


Barbara responded to Joe’s concerns.  There was a maintenance guy working on site, but they are no longer there.  He was there a few nights because of his schedule.  Another one was there, but left around 5:00.  The Taveras’ have considered putting a mobile home on the lot.  David stated that if a home was put on the lot and a septic system was required, there would be no place to park the 14 vehicles.  Barbara replied that they would need to do the parking somewhere else.  They do not need the house on Farr Hill Road because it is too big for them.  The Taveras’ own a home in another country and are only here for three months of the year.  The garage would be for storing and repairing their vehicles.  Barbara stated she was under the impression that the variance was not for the garage to be commercial, but to park the vehicles there.


Chair Daine stated that this variance would be for parking commercial vehicles.  Barbara replied that there was a commercial building on the lot when the Taveras’ purchased it.  The tenant was already there and working.  Ralph asked if the garage was built as a private parking garage and that a person was allowed to work on their car in it.  Joe replied yes.  Ralph concluded that it was not a business to repair personal race cars in the garage.  Ralph added that the Taveras’ purchased the property and is starting to use it as a commercial property.  An LLC is a business.  The previous use was a private use.  Barbara replied that it was rented commercially.  Ralph disagreed.  Barbara stated that they thought it was commercial because it was being rented.   Ralph confirmed that it was not a commercial use.


Chair Daine explained that the assumed previous use of the property does not matter.  The application is for the parking commercial vehicles. The Board needs to consider the impact of running this business in a residential neighborhood on a dead end street.  A neighbor has voiced concerns.  Barbara added that it would pose a hardship if the Taveras’ could not use this lot for parking and the garage is needed for maintenance.  Ralph stated that the Board cannot consider financial hardship.  Chair Daine added that the hardship was created by the owner.  They should have requested approval prior to purchasing the lot.


Chair Daine closed the public input.  David read the definition of Variance from the Zoning Ordinance: 

A permit authorizing a use of property which is contrary to the Zoning Ordinance.  Variances may be granted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment in cases, where, owing to special conditions, a literal enforcement of the provisions of the ordinance would result in unnecessary hardship.  A variance must also meet four other criteria: no diminution in value of surrounding properties would be suffered; granting the permit would be of benefit to the public interest; by granting the permit substantial justice would be done; and the use must not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance.


The Board reviewed the submitted information.  The applicant stated the variance will not be contrary to the public interest.  Chair Daine stated that an abutter voiced concerns with a business being located here.  There are kids in the neighborhood and there will be increased traffic on this dead end street.  David stated the applicant plans to improve the lot, but the public interest also involves traffic and kids.  Fourteen vehicles will be added to the property.


The applicant claimed the variance is consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.  Chair Daine stated the previous use of the lot cannot be considered.  The proposed use is a commercial entity and not private.  The Taveras’ will be working on their commercial vehicles.  David read the Zoning Ordinance purpose of the Residential-I zone:

The purpose of this district is to enable residential development of a low to medium density urban character having pubic water and sewer facilities available to it.  The principal use of land is for single family, two family and residential conversions and related recreational, religious and educational facilities normally required to provide a balanced and attractive residential area which provides for adequate light, air and open space for dwellings and related facilities.


If granted, it must be consistent with the purpose.  Sometimes an activity fits the definition even though it is not on the permitted uses list.  Ralph added that 14 vehicles is a big business and not consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.  Chair Daine acknowledged that not all of the vehicles would be leaving at the same time and that the Board could not restrict how many leave each day.


The applicant stated that substantial justice is done, that the general public would not be harmed, and that the appearance of the property would be improved.  Ralph stated that 14 vehicles parked on this property would not improve the appearance of the property.


The applicant stated that their proposed improvement would prevent the property values to the surrounding properties from being diminished.  Chair Daine stated this is a commercial activity in the R-I zone and on a dead end street.  There were concerns of depreciation.  Ralph added that he felt property values would diminish.  There would be a business in an area with kids.  David was not convinced that this use would not diminish property values.


Chair Daine stated the property owner purchased this prior to applying for the variance.  This property can be used for something else.  Ralph asked what the unnecessary hardship was.  This is not the only space in Town for them to use.  Chair Daine also stated that the hardship is usually something specific about the property, such as terrain, that creates a hardship.  Vice Chair LeSage added that Taveras might put a mobile home on the lot.  David stated that the lot could be used as a residence as intended.


Vice Chair LeSage made a motion to deny Edward & Jessica Taveras, Owner and Applicant – ZBA18-11 – Request for a Variance relating to Article IV, Section 4.02.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow parking  commercial vehicles  from a transportation business at 37 Pike Ave, tax map 79-199, in the R-I zone without prejudice based on the following facts:

  • The request is contrary to the public interest.
  • The values of the surrounding properties will be diminished.
  • There was no defined unnecessary hardship.  The Board felt the proposed use would hurt the abutters.
  • There are other more effective uses for this property.


Ralph seconded the motion.  The motion to deny the request was passed 4-0.  The applicant was informed of the 30-day appeal period.


Vice Chair LeSage made a motion to approve the minutes from September 11, 2018 as written.  Ralph seconded the motion.  The motion passed by all.


At 7:30, Ralph made a motion to adjourn.  David seconded the motion.  The motion passed.


Submitted by,

Joanna Ray