Planning & Zoning Board Notices & Minutes

Jun 27, 2017

Approved Zoning Board Minutes - June 27, 2017

TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017
6:00 PM




PRESENT: Chairman Daine, David Rochefort, Jerry LeSage, Guy Harriman, Jim McMahon, and Joanna Ray (recording secretary)


EXCUSED:   Vice Chair Moore and Ralph Hodgman


OTHERS PRESENT:  Robert Reeves, Jessica Reeves, Gardner Kellogg, Andy Smith, Leslie Robbins, Atty. Mark Puffer, Cheryl Perlo, Joe DePalma, Jackie DePalma, Stan Fillion, Loretta Fillion, and Rudy Gelsi


Chairman Daine called the meeting to order at 6:00.  Guy and Jim were designated as voting member for this meeting.


Wayne Graham & Julie Graham, Owners / Gardner Kellogg, Agent – ZBA17-10 – Request for a Variance related to Article V, Section 5.01 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow the depth of the property to be less than the required 250’ at 259 Union Street in the C-I zone.


The hearing was noticed in the newspaper, the abutters were notified, and the case fees were paid.  The application was accepted as complete.  No conflicts were noted. 


Gardner Kellogg presented.  The proposal is for a 2-lot subdivision, but one of the lots does not have the required depth.  Both lots will use the existing shared driveway on Union Street.  This plan is non-conforming, but it is the closest he could get to the requirements. This proposal will not affect Crawford Street in any way.  The Graham’s want to sell the apartment building and retain the other building that has the salon.  Jim asked if DOT was contacted.  Gardner replied that he is under the impression that there is a permit in place and that no additional contact is required.  There will be no additional access.    


Chairman Daine asked if there were any abutters present in favor of the project that wanted to comment.  There were none.  Any abutters opposed.  None.  Any others wishing to comment.  None.  Chairman Daine closed the public input.


The Board reviewed the findings of the facts.  The application will need subdivision approval if the ZBA approves the lot size.  Everyone agreed that the proposal was consistent with the spirit of the ordinance.  Chairman Daine agreed that the proposal would be convenient for the applicants, but wasn’t sure if this should be the reason for a variance.  David stated that substantial justice is there without the specific wording supplied by the applicant.  No Board members disagreed that the property values in the area would not be diminished.  Chairman Daine stated that the applicants purchased this parcel knowing there were two houses on it. This proposal is more of a financial gain.  The shape of the land would be in question if it was vacant.  David noted that the owners were not present, but they might have a reason for needing to sell off the other house with some land.  There could be a hardship of the losing the property if they cannot sell.  These structures were built prior to zoning.  Jim noted that the Board needs to look at the depth and the depth is set for this odd shaped lot.  The proposal will be to square it off and it makes sense with the two uses.  The lack of depth does not affect any abutters and the owners will be using the same entrance and parking areas.  David agreed that the proposal was not encroaching on anyone.  Jim confirmed that the variance is for 48-feet.  Chairman Daine agreed that the applicant has done everything possible to get the required depth. 


Guy stated he didn’t feel there was anything wrong with the proposal.  David agreed that the proposal would not change the character of the neighborhood and there would be no harm in approving.  Jim stated that if someone buys the apartment and tears it down, they will need to come back to the board if they cannot meet the setbacks. 


The driveway is not a town issue.  The easement to use and maintain the shared driveway will be defined in the deed.


Jerry LeSage made a motion to approve ZBA17-10, as presented to the board, without prejudice with the condition that the applicant comply with all Federal, State, and Local regulations.  Guy second the motion.  The motion passed 5-0.


Robert & Jessica Reeves, Applicants / Douglas Caulfield & Virginia Alvord, Owners – ZBA17-11 – Request for a Special Exception related to Article IV, Section 4.02.04 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a Commercial Establishment for a wedding venue at 345 Williams Rd, tax map 73-62, in the Rural zone.


The hearing notice was in the newspaper, abutters were notified, and the hearing fees were paid.  The application was accepted as complete.  There were no conflicts noted.  Chairman Daine read the letter that was submitted by the applicants. 


Robert stated they are looking to purchase a place to live at part-time and rent out for weddings.  Guy asked if the purchase was contingent on Board approval.  Robert replied that it essentially was, but they really like the property.  Jerry asked if they would live at this property when rented out.  Robert replied that they would rent an apartment during times the house was rented.  They would rent nearby in case there was an emergency at the house.  There would be no employees.  Jerry asked if the property would be rented out like those advertised on the internet.  Robert replied no, but it would be taxable like an expanded Bed & Breakfast.  Robert stated he would not be there when the guests are there and will not be providing breakfast. It would be awkward to be onsite during the parties.  Guy asked if the renters would police themselves.  Robert replied yes.  Chairman Daine asked if there was a limit on guests.  Jessica replied that there would be if the Board requests it.  Chairman Daine asked if the party would be for immediate family only.  Jessica replied that non-family guests would have to find other accommodations.  Jerry asked about a liquor license.  Robert stated that if the wedding party supplies their own alcohol, then a license is not required.  All parties would have to be insured as well as the owners.  Jerry asked if the police will have to visit the site.  Robert replied that he hopes they will not have to, but there may be some noise complaints.  These will not be rowdy parties.  Jessica stated that similar places require that the DJ equipment and speakers must be in the barn and shut off at 10PM.  Sound would be directed away from the neighbors.  Guy asked if the Board was being asked to approve the concept with no actual performance plan.  Guy stated he doesn’t want to discourage them, but he sees tons of problems.  These problems could be resolved with restrictions.


David stated this is a beautiful spot and a great concept, but the access road is small and dirt.  Chairman Daine read an email from Joe DePalma regarding the road condition.  Joe’s email discussed the 15’ road width and how a driver cannot safely pull over in many spots to accommodate an oncoming vehicle.  This email will be part of the application file.  Chief Joe Mercieri also voiced some concerns.  Chairman Daine agreed that sound may be an issue and asked if any study has been done.  Jessica replied that there have been studies done, but not with this particular property.  Jessica feels that the slope of the property will work to its advantage. 


Jim asked if this proposed use actually falls under the definition of a commercial establishment.  Perhaps it is more of an outdoor venue.  Jim asked the Board if they are all on the same page regarding the description of the use.  Jim inquired about the number of people on site, the parking, and the septic holding tank.  Jessica replied that they want to put in a new holding tank to be pumped after every event.  Robert stated that it would be ideal to have people shuttled in.  This would help with people that want to drink at the party.  He has not found a place of people to park offsite. 


Chairman Daine asked if there were any abutters present wanting to speak in favor of the project.  There were none.  Any abutters opposed.  Atty. Mark Puffer stated he was representing Bruce and Cheryl Perlo who own lot 63.  Mark described the reason for the Perlo’s purchasing in this area was because of the remote rural location.  Mark also noted that the road is narrow and winding.  Another item Mark discussed was whether or not the project is allowed by special exception in this zone.  There are many uses for this zone, but wedding or civic events are not included.  A wedding is not a neighborhood use and does not provide services to the neighborhood.  It brings people from all over the area and is the opposite of what is intended for the rural zone.  Mark also referenced the Master Plan and the low density housing with home based commercial activities to services the area residences.  The Master Plan is consistent with the general description of the rural district.  Restaurants are allowed by special exception and some others that are indoor commercial establishments.  The proposed is basically an outdoor activity.  Mark does not feel that this project meets the special exception criteria either.  The Board needs to decide if the project is allowed under special exception.


David agreed that the Board needs to decide if this a special exception use, but would like to hear from anyone present.


Leslie Robbins, abutter, asked the Board if they had been to the project site.  Most of the Board replied yes.  Leslie asked the Reeve’s if they have done this type of project before.  They replied no.  Leslie stated that the road is narrow and dirt, but picturesque.  It is not designed for a lot traffic and has two sharp corners.  Leslie has lived on Gannon Road for about 10 years because of its proximity to Littleton and employment.  Williams Road is in pretty good shape now, but there can be ruts in the mud season.  The Town comes out to grade it.  People have to pull over to let others pass by.  Noise is another concern.  Over the years several neighbors have hosted parties and they get a little loud.  The proposed project could be up to 25 celebrations every year.  Not everyone will be loud, but it can happen.  The applicants made suggestions on how to mitigate the noise, but they will not be on the property when it is rented.  There is no oversight.  Leslie is also worried about the possible drinking and driving.  Leslie checked with the PD and found that there are 1-3 officers on duty on a Saturday night.  If granted, Leslie asked if the approval is for the applicants or future buyers.  Chairman Daine replied that the approval runs with the property. 


Chairman Daine asked the board if they were ready to discuss the question of whether or not the project is categorized properly.  Jim replied that the project does not fit a category in the Zoning Ordinance.  Chairman Daine stated that the Zoning Officer at the time thought it was an indoor commercial use.  Atty. Puffer did not feel that the project is an indoor commercial use.  David stated he has looked at all of the permitted and special exception uses and it is hard to put it in any category.  Chairman Daine agreed.  This project will be mostly outdoors.  Jerry stated that there are too many issues involved and did not believe the project is a special exception use.  Guy agreed. 


Chairman Daine closed the public input and asked the board if they feel the project is a special exception use.  No board member thought it was. 


Chairman Daine opened the public input.  Robert Reeves stated that the Zoning Officer at the time decided this fell under the special exception uses.  Since it did not, Robert informed the Board they he decided to withdraw the application.  Chairman Daine accepted the withdrawal of the application.


Review of May 23, 2017 minutes

Jim noted he was commenting on the depth of the parcel.  Jim made a motion to approve the minutes.  Chairman Daine second the motion.  The motion passed.


Review of June 13, 2017 minutes

Jim noted a clarification near the end of the BrauFink discussion.  Jim had asked about getting input from the Selectboard regarding item D.  He wanted to know where the Selectboard were regarding the parking.  David made a motion to approve the minutes with the clarification.  Guy second the motion.  The motion passed. 


At 7:50, Chairman Daine made a motion to adjourn.  Jerry second the motion.  The motion passed.


Submitted by,

Joanna Ray