Zoning Board Grants Home Occupation Variance

Mary Ferris and Martin Meehan received a variance that allows a home occupation at their 2 Arrowhead Drive, thanks to Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) action. At the board’s Wednesday, June 19 meeting, Ferris said of their plan, “We hope to set up a workshop to design and build unique components requiring a high degree of accuracy. We also hope to build products that we can sell at craft fairs. It’s basically a workshop situation.”

Ferris said they expected the workshop to be a part-time endeavor. “But maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll take up more time,” she added. Ferris said the activity would occur in the basement and garage and not at any time in the living space, so it would have no impact on the character of the neighborhood. She noted work will take place indoors, with no outside storage or sign. She said sales would be through existing business contacts and they would be going to the customer instead of customers coming to them.

“We will not use our home address on anything and we will be using a post office box if needed,” Ferris said. “There will be no impact on traffic, as we intend to have nothing at our house except the workshop.”
She added that only she and Meehan would be involved and there would be no outward sign of any activity.
“No noise, no sign, no environmental impact,” Ferris said.

Board member James Totten asked what the workshop had to do with the medical industry and Meehan said in the past he had done computer design work in that area. “Eventually if we get lucky we were hoping to make a business out of this and move to a commercial location,” Meehan said. “That’s what we’d hope you’d do,” board member Larry O’Sullivan said.

Town Council liaison Jim Butler asked about the use of solvents and Meehan said any fluids or lubricant needed would be environmentally friendly, biodegradable and water-soluble. “So there will be no environmental impact,” Meehan said. “What you have to show us is the difference between a home occupation and a home business. What we allow is home occupation,” O’Sullivan said.

Meehan said the noise level would be minimal and showing a decibel comparison chart, he said that there would be a noise level just a little higher than the decibel of normal voice communication. “There will be no noise outside the residence,” he said.

Board member Neil Dunn said they hadn’t filled in the spot on the application that would indicate an additional employee and Ferris said there would be no additional employees. Totten asked about the presence of customers and Ferris said that there would be none and added she didn’t want customers coming to the residence.

“Can I ask why you’re here? Do you need a permit?” O’Sullivan said. “Because this is a home occupation, because we’re doing something inside the house,” Ferris said. “So you don’t need a permit to do what you’re doing and you don’t have a state or federal requirement or anything along those lines?” O’Sullivan said. Ferris said they did not.

Dunn asked about the ordinance regarding things that are not considered home occupations, stating that machine shops fell into that category. “How are you different from a machine shop?” Dunn asked. “A machine shop as defined is mostly machined metals produced on a mass production basis,” Meehan said. “We will not be doing that. The machines are simple woodworking machines capable of doing both. In the past I’ve made exotic flower boxes made out of copper and brass, birdhouses and pretty much stuff for around the house.”
Dunn said that when he heard, ‘metal and lathes and metal work,’ “I think of machine shop and not all machine shops do mass production. Some do prototypes.”

“What he’s mentioning are things that could be made in a home workshop like what you and I might make in our home workshop, and not selling them,” member Jay Hooley said. Chairman James Smith agreed. “I think it’s more scale than anything,” Smith said. O’Sullivan said his primary concern was noise, and that a restriction should be that the basement be sound proofed and that the garage door always be closed.
“Our concern is always going to be your neighbors, the neighborhood and the character of the neighborhood,” O’Sullivan said.

Totten suggested another restriction would be no weekend work, but O’Sullivan and Hooley said that was when people mow their lawns, so weekends would be allowed. Dunn said that he went along with O’Sullivan that although this wouldn’t be a heavy industrial machine shop, soundproofing should be a restriction on the variance. He also said he felt better because there as a clause in the ordinance that addressed noise issues, should they arise.

Member Jay Hooley said the town’s noise ordinance would also come into play. Smith noted that no neighbors or abutters were present to offer opposition. After deliberations, the board voted unanimously to grant the request with the soundproofing restriction attached.

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