APPROVED

 

TOWN OF PELHAM

JOINT MEETING

PLANNING BOARD  /  ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT  

November 18, 2013

 

Chairman Peter McNamara called the meeting to order at 7:00PM

 

PRESENT

Planning Board:

Peter McNamara, Roger Montbleau, Paul Dadak, Paddy Culbert, Tim Doherty, Jason Croteau,  Planning Director Jeff Gowan

 

ABSENT:

 

Alternate Joseph Passamonte, Alternate Mike Sherman, Selectmen Representative Robert Haverty

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PRESENT

Zoning Board:

 

 

ABSENT:

David Hennessey, Chris LaFrance,  Peter McNamara, Bill Kearney, Alternate Pauline Guay, Alternate Darlene Culbert, Planning Director/Zoning Administrator Jeff Gowan

 

Svetlana Paliy, Alternate Lance Ouellette, Alternate Kevin O’Sullivan

 

 

JOINT CASE

 

Map 14 Lot 3-81  -   61A NASHUA ROAD LANDHOLDINGS, LLC  c/o  Robert Peterson  -  61A  Nashua Road  - 

 

Mr. Dadak read the list of abutters aloud. There were no persons present who asserted standing in the case, who did not have their name read, or who had difficulty with notification.   The abutter’s list was the same for both boards; therefore the requirement for announcing the list was satisfied. 

 

Mr. McNamara thanked the applicant and their representative for agreeing to conduct a joint meeting.  He also thanked the two Boards for coming together to hear the case.   He discussed how the meeting would be conducted.

 

Attorney David Groff and Carl Dubay, representing the applicant, came forward for discussion and to present the proposal to the boards.

 

 

The Zoning Board came forward. 

 

Zoning Board    Case #ZO2013-00028

Applicant is seeking from Board of Adjustment a Variance concerning Article IX, Sections 307-53-2 C(3) & (8) of the Zoning Ordinance to permit the construction of single unit buildings with a minimum of 20 feet separation instead of a minimum of 30 feet separation and to omit sidewalks

 

Chairman David Hennessey called the Zoning Board meeting to order at approximately 7:45pm.

 

Secretary LaFrance called roll.  Mr. Guay was appointed to vote in Ms. Paliy’s absence.

 

Mr. Hennessey stated the abutter’s list was read into the record at the commencement of the proceeding. 

 

Attorney Groff reviewed the Variance questions that need to be met.  He told the Board they were seeking a Variance to the requirement for a minimum of 30ft. separation from the buildings if there is going to be more than one building on the lot.  He said Ordinance also allowed for zero separation between the units and up to six units per building.  He said the Board had been provided with a copy of an alternate design plan. 

 

Mr. Hennessey questioned if the applicant would have come before the Board had they been proposing the alternate plan (multi-unit buildings) versus the proposal for individual units.  Attorney Groff said they would not have come in front of the Board on the building separation.  He said they were requesting the Variance because they didn’t want to do the (alternate) multi-unit buildings.  They felt the detached units would be a better design and better use of the property; it would also be better for the surrounding properties in the neighborhood in terms of property value and impact. 

 

Attorney Groff read aloud the Variance criteria as submitted with the application.  The Variance request was only for the 20ft. separation between units and no longer to waive the sidewalk requirements.  He said the reason for which was when the developer spoke with Keach Nordstrom (Town’s engineer) they came up with an alternate scheme that incorporated sidewalks into the design.  He noted the proposed plan showed forty detached units, which were higher end cottage designs that could take advantage of the topography of the land  and have a more positive impact on property values.  The alternate plan contained forty-four attached units with larger buildings.  He questioned which building design the Board wanted to encourage. 

 

Ms. Guay questioned which plan was referred to when the applicant spoke about decreasing the number of units by thirteen.  Attorney Groff replied if the proposed plan with single detached units all had a 30ft. separation,  it would be need to be reduced by thirteen units.  He said during the previous Zoning Board meeting the question was raised as to how many units would be reduced with the required separation and the applicant estimated the number to be seven units; they’ve now done an accurate calculation and determined the actual number would be thirteen.  It was noted that the colorized proposed plan with forty detached units would be reduced to twenty-seven units.  Ms. Guay asked if the neighboring houses were larger than what was being proposed.   Attorney Groff answered that the surrounding were all single family homes.  Ms. Guay understood that the surrounding homes were spread out with more than 30ft. between them.  Attorney Groff answered yes. 

 

Mr. Hennessey said one of the purposes of the joint hearing was because where zoning ends and planning begins is somewhat confusing in Pelham’s Zoning.  His questions came from the zoning portion as well as the site plan evaluation in the Zoning Ordinance.  He was familiar with the cottage style units and asked what the square footage would be for the units.  Mr. Dubay said they could be in the range of 1200SF-1900SF.  Mr. Hennessey asked if each unit would have a bedroom on the first floor on grade.  Mr. Dubay believed there was a requirement to have a master bedroom on the main living level at the main access point.  He explained there were walk out units where the basement would be available to have the master suite on the first level.  The walk up design had people walking in at the lower level (garage facing forward), the kitchen would be up a level and usually the master was on the same level as the kitchen.  Mr. Hennessey said that may be an issue because the Ordinance calls for the bedroom to be on the first floor.  Knowing the question would arise, Mr. Dubay said they were working on the floor plans.  He said they could put the bedroom on the first level; there was room in those units to do so. 

 

With regard to density, Mr. Hennessey said the zoning called for at least 10,000SF of land area exclusive of wetlands for each dwelling unit.  Mr. Dubay said the 10,000SF was all good land, with no deductions (because of wetlands) off that figure.  Mr. Hennessey saw a requirement for vegetative buffers to provide screening and asked if this would be done.  Mr. Dubay told the Board a licensed landscape architect would be preparing a detailed landscape plan.  Many of the units may have that type of separation in between the units.  Mr. Hennessey didn’t see anything on the plan for passive recreation use as required under the Ordinance.  Mr. Dubay said they had discussed it and there were several options they would like to review with Mr. Gowan.  He said they weren’t asking for any waiver, variance or relief of that requirement.  He understood they would have to provide something that was appropriate to the village. 

 

Mr. Kearney didn’t understand what made the property unique for a variance to be granted.  Attorney Groff said the parcel had a narrow access point and a very large back area.  The other properties along Nashua Road had 200ft. of frontage.  He said the property was reserved for the type of use that was being proposed, and had come in front of the Planning Board some years ago with that same use.  He believed a recorded plan was submitted to the Zoning Board during their previous meeting and the type of use was intended for senior housing.  He further noted that none of the other properties in the area met that criteria, or were set aside in that fashion.  Mr. Dubay said the property was unique in its setting and particular orientation.  He said the cottage style and names instilled an excitement.  They believed the site was unique because it was surrounded by ten acres and an existing neighborhood.  He said they wanted to honor and respect the neighborhood.  He noted this wasn’t a larger parcels surrounded by a wetland or a commercial parcel.  In terms of putting good planning and zoning together, Mr. Dubay didn’t feel when the Ordinance was put together they contemplated higher end small cottages.  They wanted to provide air and space between the cottages; Mr. Dubay felt it was unique in its setting within the existing neighborhood. 

 

Mr. Kearney asked if there had been any thought to increasing the distance between the units; possibly to 25ft.  Mr. Dubay said they knew 20ft. would meet NFPA safety and basic code.  He said it would be a very expensive project to build; they were sprinkling, and putting water in.  Mr. Hennessey stopped the conversation as it was heading more to the area of planning.  He said the questions was fine, but he didn’t want the perception that the Board was asking the applicant to change their application.

 

Mr. McNamara discussed ‘uniqueness’ and heard the applicant say the type of use was unique because of the narrow spacing.  He felt the parcel was well enabled for elderly housing; however that was a type of use as opposed to the density of the use.  He shared Mr. Kearney’s concern that there was a remedy to the situation as opposed to what was proposed.  He struggled to see what made the property so unique that a waiver should be granted for the particular proposal in front of the Board.   Mr. McNamara under the senior housing evaluation criteria he read aloud a portion of Section 307-53-1, C,3 pertaining to building separation and emergency vehicle access between buildings.  He questioned the applicant if the variance were granted would they take the position that the Planning Board could not then increase space between buildings.  Attorney Groff’s answer was no because they were two separate boards with separate purposes.  He didn’t know if the Planning Board would be prohibited from doing something if the Zoning Board granted a variance.  He said the only thing unique about the property was its location being in a neighborhood. 

 

Mr. Gowan said the fire Department had yet to officially weigh in on the plan; however their input would be specific to the placement of dwellings in the context of NFPA.   He said there would also be recommendations submitted by the Highway Safety Committee.  He said one aspect seen in the proposed project, which was not seen in any other senior project in Pelham was the presence of water.  He said the Fire Chief would comment specifically regarding access between the buildings.  Mr. Hennessey believed the project on Windham Road had water going through.  Mr. Gowan said he was referring to the development the Board had approved within the last ten years (or so). 

 

Mr. Dubay said one of the first things they did after touching base with Mr. Gowan was to meet with the Fire Department who generally suggested having a licensed fire protection engineer go through all the codes and regulations.  He said they followed the suggestion and voluntarily hired a fire protection engineer to review the plan. 

 

Mr. Hennessey opened the discussion to public input.

 

PUBLIC INPUT

 

Mr. Tim Doherty came forward as a member of the public and told the Board he wouldn’t speak in favor or against the plan.   He spoke to the uniqueness of the property from his point of view.  He said testimony was given earlier in the meeting about wells going dry because of blasting; therefore he assumed there was more than one well on abutting properties.  He commented that a unique factor of the property was it having Pennichuck Water.  He said testimony was also given that other properties were being brought in with elderly housing.  He questioned when uniqueness of the property was reviewed if the Board was looking only at the neighborhood, or if they were tying in to other elderly houses.  If the Board was looking at other properties, Mr. Doherty pointed out that the proposed property was not table-top flat like the property next to Rite Aid (on Atwood Road).  He said building larger multi-units structures would be easier on table-top property; they could be spaced out for drainage and grades.  The uniqueness of the proposed property was the topography not being flat.  Mr. Doherty said by separating the buildings they could be stepped down and sit on the property in better match to what the neighborhood had.  He said there would unique factors to the property when comparing it to other elderly housing around Town and the fact that it wouldn’t have wells and other abutters do.  Mr. Doherty ended by reiterating he wasn’t speaking for or against the proposal because he was a sitting member of the Planning Board. 

 

Mr. Stephen Amero, 6 Independence Drive said the plan with the separated buildings looked really nice.  He was concerned a precedent would be set if the Board allowed for a narrower separation between buildings.  Mr. Hennessey said the Zoning Board was not bound by precedent and each case was handled separately. 

 

Mr. Hennessey left the public hearing portion open, but returned discussion to the Board. 

 

Mr. LaFrance said when the applicant came to the first meeting he was set against the 20ft. separation because he didn’t feel it was what the Town wanted.  However, after seeing the plan of what could be developed, as opposed to what would be developed (if approved), it was his opinion the only way they should move forward. 

 

Mr. Kearney commented what could be, and what would sell were two different things.  In his estimation the single units would sell, not the larger unit buildings.  He respected Mr. LaFrance’s concern about the alternate plan showed the worst case scenario for land use, but in his estimation it wouldn’t behoove anyone to move forward with it.  He believed Mr. Doherty did a good job expanding upon what was brought forward regarding the uniqueness of the property.  He said the building style had unique features.  Mr. Kearney was concerned with the density of the project and understood it was probably arranged in that manner for financial viability. 

 

Mr. Guay was concerned with the density.  She said Pelham was unique in its rural setting and felt seniors should have the same advantages as other people in terms of privacy and space.

 

Mr. McNamara appreciated that the applicant included sidewalks in the plan.  He felt it was a perfect example of something that could be a start to years down the road connecting Nashua Road with the Senior Center and other establishments in the Town center.  He said the proposed density would put a lot of people on Nashua Road in terms of motor vehicles and people recreating.  He appreciated Attorney Groff’s points regarding uniqueness of the parcel as well as Mr. Doherty’s description.  However, he still struggled with seeing the unnecessary hardship.  He said there was a remedy, such as by having 30ft. separation.  He said the applicant was almost asking for forty separate variance requests for (building) separation. 

 

Mr. Hennessey said the applicant made a point that it would be an active senior community, which he felt fit a 20ft. separation better than a 30ft. separation.   He believed the required separation was put into the ordinance was because of fire and safety with multiple unit buildings.  He said if the separation between the buildings was added together it far exceeded what the total separation would be between six and four unit buildings.  The project was being spread out more than if the applicant chose not to come before the Board and simply build what was allowed under the Ordinance.  Mr. Hennessey felt the proposal fit community needs and the spirit of the Ordinance.  He believed the uniqueness of the site lay between multiple things, amidst single-family dwellings and also in proximity to the rebuilt center of Town.  He felt the applicant had shown the case.  In the absence of Boccia, Mr. Hennessey recognized that economic considerations were not supposed to be part of their criteria, but in looking at the proposal given the real estate aspect, he understood the reason the applicant would try to add extra units.  He commented that the economic consideration could not be formally considered, but felt the applicant was doing it within the context of the spirit of the Ordinance. 

 

BALLOT VOTE

#ZO2013-00024:

 

Mr. Hennessey – Yes to all criteria

Mr. McNamara – 1) Yes; 2) Yes; 3) No; 4) Yes; 5a) No; 5b) No

Mr. LaFrance -  Yes to all criteria

Mr. Kearney – 1) No; 2) Yes; 3) Yes; 4) Yes; 5) No

Ms. Guay – 1) Yes; 2) No-because of denisty; 3) Yes; 4) No; 5) No –due to density

 

VOTE:

 

 

(2-3-0) The motion failed.

 

 

VARIANCE DENIED

 

MOTION:

(LaFrance/Kearney)   To adjourn the Zoning Board of Adjustment portion of the meeting.

 

VOTE:

 

(5-0-0) The motion carried. 

 

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

The meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:40 pm.

 

                                                                                                Respectfully submitted,

                                                                                                Charity A. Landry

                                                                                                Recording Secretary