Planning & Zoning Board Notices & Minutes

May 16, 2018

Approved Zoning Board Hearing - May 29, 2018


  

LITTLETON ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT

TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2018
LITTLETON COMMUNITY HOUSE
120 MAIN STREET
6:00 PM
APPROVED MINUTES

 

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

 

ABSENT:  Guy Harriman (alternate)

 

Chair Daine called the meeting to order at 6:00.  A full Board was present.

 

Martire O. Taveras, Owner & Applicant – ZBA18-06 – Request for a Variance relating to Article X, Section 10.01.03 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a multi-family dwelling on a parcel less than 30,000 square feet at 72 Pleasant Street, tax map 79-28, in the R-I zone.

 

The hearing was noticed in the newspaper, abutters were notified, and the hearing fees were paid.  No conflicts were noted. 

 

Martire informed the Board that he purchased the building as a single family and converted it to a 2-family shortly after.  The building had a 2 bedroom / 2 bath and a 3 bedroom / 1 bath.

 

About 5 years ago, he converted it to a 3-family.  There are currently 2 single bedroom apartments and 1 three bedroom apartment.  A kitchen was added.

 

There are no apartments in the garage.  There was no expansion to the original building when changing the number of apartments.

 

Jim noted that the property offers ample parking.  Ralph asked if any building permit was obtained for the construction.  Martire replied no.  Ralph stated that adding a kitchen is considered new construction.  Chair Daine noted that a 2-family is permitted, but a variance was required for this 3-family due to the size of the property.  Martire stated there are others in the neighborhood with the same situation.

 

Ralph noted that section 10.01.03 of the Zoning Ordinance gives the ZBA authority to determine if the density of the parcel is adequate for the 3-family.  Section 10.01.04 stated that in no case shall the density be less than 4,000 square feet per unit.  It was determined that section 10.01.04 meant 4,000 square feet of land per unit. The two sections appear to contradict each other. Section 10.01.03 is the one referenced for this application.  The property assessment card states the building is a 2-family.  Assessing was not informed when the third apartment was added.  Ralph stated that a minimum of 12,000 square feet is required for a 3-family.  This property has 2,000 square feet less than that.

 

Ralph stated he did a site visit and noticed many hazards in the building.

 

Chair Daine informed the applicant that the Board always asks various Town Departments for their comments or concerns regarding an application.  The following comments were submitted by Public Works Director Joe DePalma: 

 

The Sewer Service at 72 Pleasant Street has been problematic for Littleton Public Works for many years.  Instead of the system taking the shortest and most commonsensical route to our Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) which would be utilizing our Sewer Main on Pleasant Street, the sewer service runs differently.  The line exits the building and travels across the rear of the lot, crosses one or two other lot lines, and joins our system on Union Street.  There is no recorded easement with the other lot owners, and repairing this old, clay, root infested and inferior line has resulted in big problems and potential health hazards.  Going by memory, I believe last summer, Dodge Contracting was able to make some repairs to the line, but were unable to fully complete the repair due to a conflict with a tree on the neighbor’s land.  The sewer line is under somebody else’s tree, choked by roots, and there is no alternative to cutting down the tree.  The neighbor will not allow the tree to be cut.

 

Milt Bratz, Health Officer, has invited me on occasion, to assist him in assessing health concerns here.  Milt is best positioned to comment further on the health concerns associated with this address.  Also, worth noting, the last tenant who voiced concerns regarding the health component here at 72 Pleasant St. was, to the best of my knowledge, evicted.

 

The applicant has been advised by their contractor, and the Public Works Department as to how to best proceed.  I am opposed to any additional flow or loading increase at this address, given the sub-standard condition the existing service is in. 

 

The following comments were submitted by Health Officer Milton Bratz:

 

It may not have been an eviction, although the tenant had been threatened with one by Mr. Taveras because she complained about the sewer smell in her bathroom and occasionally at her kitchen sink.  I also brought Earl Middlemiss (Mechanical Safety & Licensing Inspector) from the NH State Fire Marshall Office, who identified what changes in the apartment's plumbing needed to happen to eliminate to odors.  Because of the "tension" the tenant was experiencing (as of February of this year) with the landlord following our visits and letters to him ordering the changes, she left of her own accord (I think), and now lives at the AHEAD complex further up Pleasant Street.  Regardless of how the tenant left, I agree with Mr. DePalma's conclusion regarding further living space expansion at this address given the possibly ongoing deficient operating condition of the plumbing and associated external piping complexities.

 

Milton added that Mr. Taveras corrected the errors that Mr. Middlemiss suggested be addressed.

 

Eddy Moore stated that the PW Director and Health Officer concerns were addressed.

 

The following comments were submitted by Fire Chief Joe Mercieri:

 

The conversion was performed without code oversite and as a result, we do not know if the building, apartments, etc. are code compliant.  To do this we would need to inspect the building and apartments.

 

Unfortunately, people do not understand that a transition from a two to three or more family, now classifies the building as an apartment building.  This can become problematic, especially when we address building fire separations and exits.

 

Would you know when the structure was changed?

 

Martire stated he installed hardwired smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. 

 

Ralph asked if the insurance company was informed of the change to a 3-family.  Martire replied no.

 

Ralph read some of section 10.01.03.  The final determination of the density of a parcel to be developed for apartment buildings shall be determined by the Zoning Board of Adjustment after a thorough evaluation of a proposal, the parcel and neighborhood characteristics, the ability of the site to adequately provide for the building, parking, amenities, such as landscaping, recreation areas, walkways, etc., required utilities and services, and the impact on Town services and streets, and the impact on abutting properties and the neighborhood.

 

Chair Daine stated that the increase in dwelling units did not increase the number of people living there.  The 2 bedroom apartment was converted into 2 single bedroom apartments.  Ralph stated that there was an increase in sewer use with the new kitchen.  David stated that Joe DePalma did not want to see additional flow.  Ralph added that this was an increase in water and sewer.

 

Ralph asked Joanna if a building permit was required for the conversion.  Joanna replied that the definition of building permit does not include interior renovation unless it is in the 100-year flood zone.  If this application is denied, it is essentially saying that the applicant must remove the third apartment.

 

Chair Daine closed the public input and the Board reviewed the submitted findings of the facts.

 

The applicant stated:

Granting the variance will not be contrary to the public interest because it would not change its current use, which is that of a multi-family dwelling.  

Granting the variance will be in the spirit of the ordinance because the property would provide the same or lesser amount of units as adjoining properties.

Granting the variance would do substantial justice because it would be a more efficient use of the units as two 1-bedroom/1-bath than it would as one 2-bedroom/2-baths.

Granting the variance would not diminish the values of the surrounding properties because the abutting properties are already 3, or more, family dwellings.

The property is actually better suited than many others in the area due to ample off-street parking in the rear of the property.  The two units were separated by only a doorway, which has been walled up and doesn’t require any additional construction or building footprint.

 

Ralph stated that the building wasn’t a multi-family when the third unit was added, therefore it is contrary to the public interest.  Eddy stated he couldn’t disagree with that statement. Ralph added that the multi-family has been there illegally for 5 years.  Ralph also added that other properties in the area might have received approvals or have larger lots.  The Zoning Ordinance says there cannot be less than 4,000 square feet of land per unit.

 

The Board stated the following:

The request is not contrary to the public interest because the multi-family has been there for 5 years.

 

The majority of the Board believes that the spirit of the ordinance would be observed in section 10.01.03 that gives the Board final determination after a thorough evaluation of the application.

 

Chair Daine asked Jim if he thought the request was in the spirit of the ordinance.  Jim stated that he is flexible because of the area and the fact that there are no building permit regulations for interior renovations. David added that the Board is tasked with section 10.01.03 and can determine if the density is sufficient.  Ralph stated that the Board is ignoring the conflicting section 10.01.04.

 

The Board stated that substantial justice would be done because the property has been in use this way for numerous years without adverse effect or a negative impact on abutters.  Jim asked what size the apartment were.  Martire replied that the single bedroom apartments were about 600-700 square feet and the 3-bedroom was a good size.

 

Chair Daine noted that the issue was brought to the Town by the property owner and not an abutter.  There has been no adverse effects after all this time.  Jim added that no abutters were present to raise concerns.

 

The Board noted that the area was dense with multi-family housing and wasn’t diminishing property values.

 

The Board moved on to the hardship criteria.  Chair Daine stated that the hardship could not be financial.  Jim stated that adding more land would make it work. 

 

David stated that this property has available parking.  To not grant the variance would create an unnecessary hardship for the applicant because the use has been working for 5 years.  Adding more square footage to the property would not change that fact.

 

Chair Daine asked if the property owner created their own hardship by buying this land. Ralph referenced question 5B and stated that because of the density of the property, the owner cannot conform.  Therefore, the variance needs to be issued. 

 

The Board agreed with the findings of the facts.

 

Jerry made a motion to approve Martire O. Taveras, Owner & Applicant – ZBA18-06 – Request for a Variance relating to Article X, Section 10.01.03 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a multi-family dwelling on a parcel less than 30,000 square feet at 72 Pleasant Street, tax map 79-28, in the R-I zone.  David second the motion. 

 

Jim asked if there would be specific conditions or the usual State, Federal, and Local regulations. Chair Daine stated that Joe DePalma’s concerns are noteworthy, but the issues were not caused by the third apartment. 

 

Jerry said he spoke with the Fire Chief and he appeared concerned with the building but not overly concerned.  Ralph added that he would like to see a condition that states the applicant must request a fire safety inspection and that they comply with the results. Chair Daine added that everyone needs to be in compliance.  Ralph stated that he saw violations and safety issues and the ZBA can add his suggestion as a condition.  David added that the Board does not have an understanding of what the fire and building codes are and therefore aren’t qualified, based on the recommendation in the NH ZBA Handbook, to add that type of condition.  Ralph responded by stating he wants to stop something that isn’t in compliance with the regulations. Chair Daine replied that the Board cannot assume the tenants are not protected.

 

The following condition was added to the motion to approve:

  • The applicant must comply with all Federal, State, and Local regulations

 

The motion to approve the request passed 4-1.

 

Review Minutes

May 8, 2018.  David recused himself.  Chair Daine made a motion to approve the minutes as written.  Vice Chair LeSage seconded the motion.  The motion passed.

 

At 8:00, Chair Daine made a motion to adjourn.  Vice Chair LeSage seconded the motion.  The motion passed. 

 

Submitted by,

Joanna Ray