Variances Granted for Rebuilt Lakefront House, Garage

A pair of soon-to-be empty nesters received the go-ahead from the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a plan to rebuild a house and put up a garage on lakefront property they own. J. Drennan Lowell and his wife, Kathy, appeared before the Zoning Board at its July 18 meeting to discuss the two projects. They were requesting a variance to reconstruct the house less than 15 feet from the side property line, and to construct a garage less than 15 feet from the side property line. Their property is at 31 and 20 Taylor Brook Lane and is Parcels ID 18023 and 18023-001, respectively. The area is zoned LDR (Low Density Residential).

The garage will be on a second piece of property across the street from the primary residence, Lowell said. Regarding the house, Lowell told the board that literal enforcement of the zoning ordinance would create a hardship, as the lots in the area are mostly 50 feet wide. “It would be difficult to construct this on a small lot and meet the requirements,” he said.

The request is reasonable and the values of the surrounding properties will not diminish, Lowell said, because the house will be similar to surrounding properties in size, style and materials used.
The Lowells currently live on Dixon Lane, and with their last child graduating Pinkerton Academy in 2014, they are looking to downsize, Lowell told the board.

Lowell’s plan for the house include limiting windows on the side closest to his neighbors, he said. He told the board the project will be sensitive to “the neighborhood, the environment and the regulations.”
Lowell characterized the house as being “like a sideways Cape.” On the neighbors’ side, all they will see is the roof. A dormer window is on the other side, he said.

The house will be built on a crawl space, Lowell said, rather than a slab. Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mackey warned him that he would have to do an “elevation certificate” because the house is in the 100-year flood plain. “It is a requirement of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the town,” Mackey said.

Chairman Allan Virr praised the Lowells’ application for its completeness, noting, “Sometimes we get things written on a paper bag.” The board voted 5-0 to grant the variance for the house. Lowell’s case for the garage and a small apartment over it was similar to the case for the house. He noted that the garage would not be contrary to the public interest, as it would have a similar look and size to neighboring garages. The spirit of the ordinance would be observed because Lowell was in compliance with all other setback requirements. The values of the surrounding properties would not diminish, he said, because the garage would be similar in size, style and materials.

Literal enforcement of the ordinance would bring a hardship, he said, because the lot is only 50 feet wide and it would be difficult to build on it and observe the ordinance. Lowell said he heeded neighbors’ requests for privacy and eliminated a window from the one-bedroom apartment. He chose instead to go with a front deck and sliding glass door that fulfills the requirement for egress.

His engineer, Vernon Dingman, spoke to the septic system, saying that the piece would have its own mini-treatment plant as approved by the state Department of Environmental Services. Neighbors Norma and Robert Ryan spoke in the public comment portion of the meeting. Norma Ryan said they were not opposed to the construction, but were concerned about stormwater runoff. “That property is a channel for drainage,” Norma Ryan said.

“They are right,” Lowell said. “What happened on these properties is, everyone around us built up. This is the last lot.” Lowell agreed that water comes down “like a sheet” across the back of the property. The front part, including the house, is better-managed and the water goes into a swale, he said.
Lowell said he and Dingman are working on a plan to have the water flow down the left side of the garage and into the lake, though they haven’t formally designed the plan yet.

Dingman added that the existing lot is on what is predominantly a gravel parking lot with grass grown through it. Dingman said as part of the shoreland permit, the owners were required to put downspouts on the roof, which would channel the water toward the ground. He said the remainder of the lot would be “loamed and lawned,” which would restrain the velocity of the water runoff. They will also be flattening the lot, and removing some of the slope. The board voted 5-0 to allow the variance.

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