Planning & Zoning Board Notices & Minutes

May 14, 2019

Approved Planning Board Meeting - May 14, 2019


 

LITTLETON ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT
LITTLETON COMMUNITY CENTER, HEALD ROOM
120 MAIN STREET
TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019
6:00 PM

APPROVED

 

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

 

EXCUSED:  Guy Harriman (alternate) and Eddy Moore (alternate)

 

OTHERS: Kristen Smith, Kevin Smith, Andy Smith, Linda Matheson, Art Tighe, Jim Alden, Zoning Officer Milton Bratz, James Ramsey, and Jesse Trahan

 

Chair Daine called the meeting to order at 6:00.  

 

Election of Officers.  Jerry nominated Jessica as Chair.  Jim seconded the nomination.  The nomination passed.  Ralph nominated Jerry as Vice Chair.  Jim seconded the nomination.  The nomination passed. Chair Daine appointed Joanna Ray as recording secretary. 

 

James & Gail Ramsey, Owners & Applicants – ZBA19-06 – Request for a Variance relating to Article VI, Section 6.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a fence over 6’ high at 249 Birchcroft Drive, tax map 92-26, in the R-2 zone. Chair Daine reviewed the case file and accepted it as complete. 

James Ramsey informed the Board that he would like to add enough fence to extend from the shed to the property line.  Because of the slope of the land, some sections of the fence might be less than 8’ high.  Ralph asked where the fence would be.  Ramsey indicated on the plan that the fence would be on the other side of the shed and stated he wants the fence to be level with what is already there.  The neighbors land has been cleared of dozens of trees and he wants to block that off.  The current fence was professionally installed.  Vice Chair LeSage asked how many feet is being requested.  Ramsey replied that he originally asked for 24’, but 48’ would be good.

There was no one present wanting to comment.  The public input was closed.  The Board reviewed the finding of the facts.  This will be a privacy fence added to an existing fence.  The site is appropriate because it will allow further privacy.  Property values will not be reduced. There will be no nuisance or unreasonable hazard.  The fence will be installed by Round Hill, Inc. The fence will be properly maintained.

 

After review of the submitted facts, all Board members agreed with them. 

 

Vice Chair LeSage made a motion to approve the request for a fence that will not exceed 8’ in height and 48’ in length.  The fence will be located from the shed to the southern property line and will be installed by a qualified contractor.  The applicant must comply with all Federal, State, and Local regulations.

 

Jim seconded the motion.  The motion passed by all.

 

Chair Daine announced the following two cases and then recused herself because she is an abutter to 42 Main Street. Vice Chair LeSage will run this hearing.  George was designated as a voter.

 

Michael & Lisa Bouchard, Owners / Kevin & Kristen Smith, Applicants / Andrew Smith , Agent – ZBA19-07 – Request for a Special Exception relating to Article IV, Section 4.02.05 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow  Multi-family Housing at 42 Main Street, tax map 78-178, in the C-I zone.  Vice Chair LeSage accepted the case as complete.

 

Ralph read a section of page 7 of the Zoning Ordinance that referenced the word “shall” and then read the definition of a multi-family dwelling.  Ralph informed the other Board members that this is a commercial building and they are not allowed to put apartments in a commercial building.  The others in the area are grandfathered.  It is not allowed because it is not a residential building.  The application should be for a variance.  Ralph also read section 10.01.03, on page 61 that states the minimum size of a parcel of land to be developed under this provision shall be 30,000 square feet.   Ralph stated that the Board cannot change anything in the ordinance that says “shall”.

 

Vice Chair LeSage read the application into the record.  Kevin Smith presented the proposal.  There was a slight change to the original request.  They worked with a contractor and a layout worked with three units instead of four. The downstairs will stay retail.  The current owner is working with the Town to provide four parking spaces with a lot line adjustment after the sale of the barn on the abutting lot.  Andy confirmed that the density of the building has decreased, but the lot in question will be increased to provide some parking.  The additional land is approximately 16’ x 57’.

 

Jim asked if the apartments would be accessed from the back.  Kristen replied that the back of the building is access for the second floor.  There is an existing door.  Kevin added that there will be a common egress hallway with stairs.  The Fire Chief will tell them what is required when the engineered plans are submitted.

 

David stated that the Board needs to look at the safety of people coming and going at this location.  He is confident that there are no safety issues.  Kevin added that the apartment renters will not be exiting the building from the front. The goal is to have their own business downstairs. 

 

Vice Chair LeSage asked if the building was for sale.  Kevin confirmed it was for sale and that they have it under contract.

 

Andy read the Zoning Ordinance definition of variance on page 23. He also stated that the applicants want to do what almost every building on Main Street is doing.  Ralph replied that the proposed use is not allowed under the current regulations.

Jim Alden, abutter across the street, stated he was excited to see this proposal.  His building has apartments as well.  This will increase the number of quality apartments in Town.  Alden said his apartments are grandfathered, but a precedent has been set.  He is in support of this.  David replied that the proposal is spot on to the character of Main Street New England. 

 

Art Tighe, another Main Street property owner, identified this proposal as co-utilization of the property.  The ZBA has approved this type of use before and it is the best use for this property.  Ralph agreed but stated the ordinance does not allow it.  Art encouraged the Board to look at the criteria needed for the special exception and variance to see if this passes the test. Ralph replied that past decision are not considered. 

 

Andy quoted page 77 of the Master Plan.  This section references the importance of the housing stock in Littleton.  Ralph replied that houses in Littleton are needed.

 

Jessica, as an abutter, stated her concern was with parking.  She agreed that Main Street is a mix of commercial and apartments.  Along with that is a limited number of parking spaces.  Jessica added that the lot line adjustment would address their parking issue.  Andy stated that he understood the parking concern.  The historical use of the building had a parking demand and does not see three apartments increasing the demand.

 

The public input portion was closed.  Ralph referenced the email from Fire Chief Joe Mercieri regarding the Life Safety Code applicable to this building.  Chief Mercieri requested, if the application is approved, that a condition be added to require the applicant to adhere to all Local and State Fire and Building codes and prior to any construction, present and architectural building / construction print to the Town for review. 

 

Ralph stated that this request for a mixed occupancy is not in the ordinance.  Vice Chair LeSage replied that these are all over Town.  Ralph stated the others are grandfathered. 

 

Jim suggested 20’ and not 16’ for the parking.  Andy replied that the reason for 16’ is that it is part of the proposal of the Town buying the abutting property and removing the barn.

 

David made a motion to approve ZBA19-07 with the following conditions:

  • Applicant is to provide suitable parking and access.
  • Applicant is to adhere to all Local and State Fire and Building codes and prior to any construction, present an architectural building / construction print to the Town for review.
  • Applicant is to comply with all other Federal, State, and Local regulations.

 

Jim seconded the motion.  The motion was based on the following facts:

  • The location is adequate and the footprint of the building will not change.
  • Property values will not decrease.  This will benefit values.
  • The proposed will not be a nuisance.
  • Adequate parking will be provided.

 

Ralph stated his concern is this Special Exception is not allowed by the ordinance because they are asking for multi-family housing in a commercial building.

 

The motion passed 4-1.

 

Michael & Lisa Bouchard, Owners / Kevin & Kristen Smith, Applicants / Andrew Smith , Agent – ZBA19-08 – Request for a Variance relating to Article X, Section 10.01.03 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow Multi-family Housing on a parcel less than 30,000 square feet at 42 Main Street, tax map 78-178, in the C-I zone.  Vice Chair LeSage accepted the case as complete.

Jim noted the change in number of apartments as noted in the previous case. David stated the burden for the variance is proving a hardship.  Kevin stated the hardship is that he would not be able to have apartments with a retail store and to have a better lifestyle than they currently have. Not approving this request means they would not be moving to NH.  Kristen stated the apartment income is necessary due to the size of the building.  Using the building only for retail is not working because of the rear entrance for upstairs.  David asked if the layout of the structure poses a hardship.  Kristen replied yes because it is hard to find a single retail for the huge building.  A second retail use for the upstairs would not be seen.  David agreed that a second retail store on the second floor is hard.

 

Art added that the hardship is that the building is constructed for a single occupant.  Downtown is diced up for smaller spaces.  A design with rear entrance requires a massive remodel and would exceed the value of the property.  Someone might be able to do that but is has not been seen in the last 20 years.  This is too much square footage in one area.  Divisions are happening.

 

Andy added that the size of the lot is also a hardship.  The ordinance does not take into account that Main Street buildings have no setbacks. The use is compatible with the neighbors.  They also have commercial on the main floor and apartments above.  Zoning allows for a variance when there is a hardship.  Land density is the hardship.

 

Art read section 10.01.04 on page 61 regarding residential conversions.  Ralph replied that existing residences can be converted.  Art stated that abutting lots have residences above and commercial below.  Ralph agreed but stated they were grandfathered.  Ralph added that he felt the applicants met the hardship criteria but they did not meet the 30,000 square feet requirement.  Milton added that he gave the recommendation for them to apply for a variance.  The variance overrides the word shall in the ordinance.

 

Jim Alden stated that forcing someone into a multi-level retail causes a hardship.

 

David stated the applicant did a thorough presentation.  Ralph added that if the Board approves this request it will be a violation of the ordinance.  Ralph’s interpretation is that approval cannot be granted.

David made a motion to approve ZBA19-08 with the following conditions:

  • Applicant is to provide suitable parking and access.
  • Applicant is to adhere to all Local and State Fire and Building codes and prior to any construction, present an architectural building / construction print to the Town for review.
  • Applicant is to comply with all other Federal, State, and Local regulations.

 

George seconded the motion.  The motion to grant was based on the submitted findings of the facts. The motion passed 4-1.

 

Jesse & Danielle Trahan, Owners & Applicants – ZBA19-09 – Request for a Variance related to Article X, Section 10.01.03 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow an expansion of Multi-Family Housing on a parcel less than 30,000 square feet at 23 Grove Street, tax map 85-12, in the R-I zone.  Chair Daine accepted the application as complete.

 

Chair Daine read the submitted facts.  The building currently has five units.  The request is to add three more.  The lot is less than 30,000 square feet.  Ralph stated the word shall in the ordinance means it is mandatory.  Chair Daine recommended the Board get an opinion from an attorney regarding the word shall in the Zoning Ordinance. This will answer the question for future cases.

 

Jesse stated he purchased this property thinking there was room for expansion with .59 acres.  A discrepancy with the deeds now show the lot being either .40 or .34 acres.  There is about 90’ of curb and can provide for onsite parking. There is enough depth to allow for double parking if there are visitors.  This lot is surrounded by many multi-family houses that do not meet the 4,000 square foot density requirement.  There is a need for more apartments.  Jesse’s family owns numerous apartments and people inquire almost daily.  

 

Jesse stated the addition will be one story that will not affect the existing foundation.  There will be a foundation with a walk out basement.  Jesse will speak with the Fire Chief regarding fire and life safety codes.  David informed Jesse that the Fire Chief has requested a condition that Jesse adhere to all Local and State Fire and Building codes and prior to any construction, present an architectural building/construction print to the Town for review. Jesse confirmed that the addition will not have an entrance connected to the current building. They will have their own entry doors.

 

Ralph noted issues with the setbacks.  The regulations state there shall be a 25’ side setback. Chair Daine stated her interpretation with the setbacks was for new buildings and not this type of proposal.  Jim asked Jesse if he could do a 70’ addition to allow the 25’ side setback.  Jesse replied that he can shrink the building to meet that. 

 

The public input portion was closed. Some Board members agreed that there is a shortage of rental units.  The proposed is not contrary to the Zoning Ordinance. It is a great use and part of the walkable community.   Substantial justice is done because it is consistent with the neighborhood and provides onsite parking.  There will be no diminished property values. Ralph asked Jesse if he was getting a reasonable return using the property as it is.  Jesse replied that he has room for expansion and it makes sense.  Art added that Jesse bought this property thinking it was more land and that he could develop it more.  Not getting his return on investment, based on what he paid for it, leaves the addition his only option. Ralph agreed and added that this will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.  Chair Daine added that Jesse is burdened with a parcel of land that is not meeting the density similar to the others around it.

 

Ralph stated that the Board cannot approve this request because he has less than 4,000 square feet of land per unit.  The ordinance says it shall have this.

 

Based on the submitted facts, David made a motion to approve ZBA19-09 with the following conditions:

  • The applicant will adhere to the setbacks noted in Article X, Section 10.01.03 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance.
  • The applicant will submit plans to the Town for review as recommended by the Fire Chief.
  • Suitable parking, as discussed, will be provided.
  • The applicant will comply with all other Federal, State, and Local regulations.

 

Vice Chair LeSage seconded the motion.  The motion passed 4-1.

 

Review minutes

April 23, 2019.  Ralph suggested a grammar change.  Vice Chair LeSage made a motion to approve the minutes.  George seconded the motion.  The motion passed with Ralph and David abstaining.

 

At 8:20, Chair Daine made a motion to adjourn.  Vice Chair LeSage seconded the motion.  The motion passed by all.

 

Submitted by,

Joanna Ray