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August 12, 2003
|Voting Board||Acting Chairperson Joanna Eckstrom; members Carol Roberts, Bob Spear & Jim Tuttle; alternate member Ron Hanisch. Chairperson Neil Faiman was present but did not vote until the Parker case.|
Mr. Faiman called the meeting to order at 7:38 p.m. and introduced the board members. He explained that since he did not sit on the first three cases last month he would not vote on them, but sit as an alternate. He said that vice co-chair Joanna Eckstrom would chair these three cases.
Case #7/8/03–2 — CAMPBELL/CARMEN (continued)
Mark A. Campbell and Nathaniel W. Carmen have applied for a Special Exception under the terms of Section 11.4(a) of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to permit a driveway to cross a wetland area in conjunction with a proposed subdivision of Lot F— 48, 84 Intervale Road.
Mr. Faiman handed out copies of two letters that were received from the Wilton Conservation Commission in relation to this case. One letter was a written summation of what Conservation Commission member Lynne Draper presented at last month’s meeting. The second letter referred to minutes of that meeting. (See file) For the reasons stated in both letters, the Conservation Commission does not recommend granting the special exception.
Jack Kelley, from Meridian Land Services, and Attorney Andy Prolman represented the applicants. Mr. Kelley presented reworked plans to the board. Note #18 was added and the flood hazard areas and wetlands areas were color coded so that they were easier to see. He responded to some of the points in the letter from the Conservation Commission: he said that the culvert will be placed in the low point of the canal so it will drain both sides. He hopes that this will avoid standing water. He feels that a 24” culvert is large enough to handle the volume of water in the canal. He said that the flood hazard zone was carefully mapped by Meridian so that a future property owner would be aware of its existence.
Conservation Commission Chair Spencer Brookes stated that the canal is actually the last of a wooded type of vernal pool in this area, supporting salamanders, frogs & other amphibians, thus giving it ecological significance. It is a vernal pool in that it doesn’t have a natural outlet. The water stays in the pool and goes down into the groundwater and then into the river, allowing the young amphibians to survive longer than they would if they were in an environment with fish. Mr. Brookes also said that if the development is allowed, the Souhegan River local advisory committee would like to have access to the river in order to monitor shoreline protection with regards to the Comprehensive Shoreline Protection Act. He also said that placing the house on lot 1 so close to the flood hazard area could potentially cost the town and taxpayers money because of future flood damage.
Mr. Kelley pointed out that the house elevation on lot 1 is 8’ above the elevation of the river, at the time it was measured, and just slightly above flood hazard level. He also said that Tim Ferwerda, CSS, examined the property and determined that the canal was not a vernal pool. He said that it is a stagnant area with an outlet, and vernal pools have no outlet. Mr. Brookes said that the drainage end of the canal has been filled in, so in his opinion, the canal is now a vernal pool.
Ms. Eckstrom asked Attorney Prolman to explain how the Shoreline Protection Act can be incorporated into the deeds for these lots. Mr. Prolman said that language similar to that in note #17 on the plan will be inserted into each individual deed.
There was discussion among board members about how to determine if all parts of the special exception request have been met. Mr. Faiman said that the board has to weigh the facts and arguments. The board could decide that there is adequate area for these three lots and this is a productive use of the land and to achieve that productive use requires the driveway crossing. Or the board could decide that the proposed use is excessively detrimental, destructive to the wetlands or that the proposed use is disadvantageous to the community as a whole in a fashion which is covered in one of the terms in section 4.4.
|Motion||Mr. Hanisch made a motion to grant the special exception subject to the following conditions: that language about the requirements of the Shoreline Protection Act be added to the deed for each lot resulting from the subdivision of Lot F—48; and that, for safety reasons, reflectors be placed on both sides of the driveway over the wetland crossing. The motion was seconded by Mr. Tuttle.|
There was further discussion about the necessity of the wetland crossing. Mr. Faiman pointed out that the applicant can still do the subdivision without the wetland crossing. Section 11.4a says that the crossing must be essential to the use of the land that isn’t in the wetland. Even though the crossing might be preferable, it is not essential in this case, he said. Board members discussed the preference of the fire dept. and water dept. that there be this separate driveway.
|Vote||Ms. Eckstrom, Mr. Hanisch & Mr. Tuttle voted yes. Ms. Roberts & Mr. Spear voted no. Motion carried, the special exception was granted.|
Case #7/8/03–3 — L.A. LIMOUSINE (continued)
L.A. Limousine Service has applied for a variance from the terms of section 5.1 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance to permit U-Haul equipment rentals in addition to the existing limousine service business on Lot L—27, 223 Gibbons Highway.
Christine Benson, owner of the company, presented a sketch plan of the lot showing the traffic pattern, parking spaces for 4 limos in front of the building, owner and employee parking on the left side of the bldg., spaces for 2 U-Haul trucks next to the fence on the right side of the lot, and a 6’ stockade fence along the entire right and left sides of the lot.
At the July meeting, the board had also asked Ms. Benson to relocate owner and employee parking to the rear of the lot, to design a lighting plan, and to have no miscellaneous vehicles stored on the lot unless they pertained to the U-Haul of limousine business.
Ms. Benson said that she didn’t provide a parking plan for cars in the back because she didn’t feel it was a good idea. She was concerned about the safety of drivers who return the limos at night and also felt that snow removal might be a problem there. She didn’t provide a lighting plan but presented a photo of one motion sensor light that has been installed on the back of the building. She said she plans to install two more on the back of the building. She said that she would have no more than two U-Haul trucks parked along the side of the fence. Any other U-Hail trucks or trailers would be parked in back of the building. She said that she has informed U-Haul renters and U-Haul traffic control that vehicles must be returned after 7 a.m. and before 10 p.m. Regarding the board request that no miscellaneous vehicles be stored on the lot, Ms. Benson said that she would like to continue allowing her father to store his five seasonal concession vehicles on the property from November to June. It was noted that since the last meeting a car has been parked with a “for sale” sign on it in the front setback. She said that construction of the fence has begun.
Board members asked about the motion sensor lights in back. Ms. Benson said that they will shine down and will not shine on either neighbor’s property.
Abutter Peg Landry presented 8 photos that were taken within the last two weeks. The photos showed U-Haul trucks & trailers parked on Intervale Road, a trailer blocking the Landry’s driveway, at least two U-Haul trucks parked in the front of the LA Limousine lot, at least 6 trucks parked in the back of the lot and a photo of one of the fences coming down.
Ms. Landry said that when Ms. Benson was granted the variance to operate the limousine business in 1997 there were a number of conditions that went with that variance. In her opinion, many of those conditions were ignored. There were frequently vehicles for sale in the front setback, the fences have not been maintained, and then when the five or six concession trucks began to be stored there, she felt that those trucks represented another business. Now the U-Haul business on top of that just seems to be too much use of a rather small parcel in a residential neighborhood. She said that the combination of the limousines, U-Haul trucks and trailers, concession trucks and employee, renters and drivers cars just seems too congested. She also said that she and her husband have been spending time working on their house in the last two weeks and have experienced how noisy it actually is to hear the trucks going in and out all day.
Abutter Bob Landry said that someone has been dumping fill and knocking down trees on his property.
Board members explained that he should go to the Selectmen with any complaints of this type. He also said that based on the six years that LA Limousine has been in operation, he has concluded that the owners have not kept their word about a number of things that they said they would or would not do on that site.
Mr. Faiman said that when the original variance was granted, what the board was aiming for when it set the restrictions that it did, was so a commercial use could operate on this small lot in a way that would not impact the residential neighborhood around it. The experience with the limousine business over the last six years has been mixed at best, and now the board is being asked to legitimize a substantial expansion of use that has not been kept within bounds in the past. It is the board’s business to make sure that what they allow can in fact reasonably be expected to work there.
Board members discussed the different issues to consider. Mr. Faiman said that what it really boils down to is… can what is being asked for fit on this property without impacting the adjoining neighborhood? Ms. Roberts said that there are things the board asked the applicant to do that she did not address. She said that the applicant has not shown a good faith effort to the board. She also said that she felt the U-Haul business would create an overuse of this particular property. She said that the board has a responsibility to the town as well as the abutters and the applicant. In addition she said that she can’t see that there is an unnecessary hardship in this case.
Mr. Hanisch said that he would like to deny the variance. He felt that granting the request would create an overuse of the property and that any restrictions that might accompany the variance would be hard to enforce.
|Motion||Mr. Hanisch moved to deny the variance request, seconded by Ms. Roberts.|
Ms. Eckstrom felt that denying this variance would be denying the applicant the ability to make a living. She also felt that the variance could be granted with enough restrictions to protect the neighborhood.
Mr. Spear asked if the property in question has ever had a multiple use in the past, or has there traditionally been only one use. Mr. Tuttle said that when it was a garage, sometimes there were cars for sale in front. Otherwise it was a single use building.
|Vote||Ms. Eckstrom & Mr. Tuttle voted no; Mr. Hanisch, Ms. Roberts & Mr. Spear voted yes. The variance was denied.|
Case #7/8/03–4 — L.A. LIMOUSINE (continued)
L.A. Limousine Service has applied for variances from the terms of section 5.2.3, 16.1(h)(4), and18.104.22.168 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to permit the erection of a sign that would be closer to the highway than otherwise permitted, that would be larger than otherwise permitted, and would be internally illuminated, on Lot L—27, 223 Gibbons Highway.
(This is a rehearing to reconsider the variance granted in case 7/8/03 – 4, because the notice in that case did not adequately describe the kinds of relief that were being requested and the sections of the ordinance to which variances were being requested.)
Ms. Benson read the five criteria for granting all three variances and she presented a photo of the 4’4” x 4’8” plastic sign that is designed to be internally lit.
Planning Board co-chair Bruce Johnson said that he was present to represent the Planning Board. He said if the Planning Board had known that variances from 16.1(h)(4) and 22.214.171.124 were being requested last month, someone would have been at that meeting. He said that in 2001 the town voted to amend section 16 of the zoning ordinance (signs). He felt it was an important and carefully crafted ordinance written, in part, to combat ambient light pollution and preserve the rural character of the town in accordance with the master plan. The section was crafted in association with many merchants in town with the understanding that advertising their businesses is important but it can be accomplished with smaller signs and by using down-lighting and shielded lighting techniques. The sign that the applicant is requesting is approximately 20 square feet. The size that is allowed in that district is 4 square feet. He said that with regard to an internally illuminated sign, when we have a new ordinance like this, especially one crafted with the help of the merchants, it’s important to get everyone to buy into this concept that it’s a nice idea for Wilton to retain it’s character by not having this type of internally lit sign. He said that to approve one of this scale and magnitude in a location so visible to everyone would have a detrimental effect on the spirit and value of the ordinance. He said that the Planning Board can understand the hardship related to the placement of the sign but cannot see the hardship related to an internally-lit sign or a sign of that scale. He said that if he were a merchant in town and he saw that sign go up, I’d probably be here the next day saying “I might as well get an internally-lit sign too if it’s going to be allowed and there isn’t going to be any criteria to show hardship.”
Mr. Faiman explained that when the original variance was granted in 1997, internally-lit signs were allowed in commercial districts. Since LA Limousine was a commercial business in a residential district, the board granted the variance to be in keeping with other commercial businesses. Now internally-lit signs are not allowed in commercial districts. So what led the board to grant the internally-illuminated sign in 1997 would call for denying the request today.
Ms. Eckstrom asked how the applicant could light her sign in a way that would not disturb the neighbors.
Mr. Johnson said that one of the most common ways would be to position one or two shielded lights above the sign so that they would shine down directly onto the sign.
|Motion||Mr. Tuttle moved to grant a variance to erect the proposed sign at the property line, behind the mailbox, in line with the stockade fence and the tree line and is not to intrude into the state highway right-of-way. If the applicant chooses to light the sign, it must be from an internal source; the sign can not be lit after 10 p.m. Ms. Roberts seconded the motion. Four were in favor and Mr. Hanisch voted no.|
Case #8/12/03–2 — PARKER
Grayson L. and Natalie C. Parker have applied for variances to sections 5.2.1 and 13.3(e) of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, and a special exception under Section 13.2 of the Ordinance. The applications are in connection with a proposed subdivision, consolidation, and lot line adjustments of Lots J – 73, J – 74, and J – 75 and a proposed Elderly Housing Development. The special exception would permit the creation of an Elderly Housing Development on one of the resulting lots, and the variances would permit the creation of a residential lot with an area of less than 0.5 acres per dwelling unit and an Elderly Housing Development on a lot with an area of less than one acre.
Mr. Tuttle left to go home and Mr. Faiman resumed his position as Chairperson. The board set a time limit of one hour, or 11 p.m. for the next case. Mr. Faiman read the notice for the case and noted that all board members attended a site visit with Mr. Tuomala and Stuart Brown before the meeting.
Phil Tuomala of Monadnock Survey represented the applicants and explained that the Parkers currently own Lots J – 73, J – 74 & J – 75 on Dale Street. There are actually 4 lots of record but only 3 tax lot numbers. Currently Lot J – 75, although two separate lots of record, has a 4-family residence right on top of the lot line. Lot J – 75 is currently .93 acres which is non-conforming. The Ordinance calls for 1/2 acre per dwelling unit, which would be 2 acres. The applicants want to subdivide Lot J – 75 in such a way as to create a lot with the four-family dwelling that would be .38 acres in size, making it more non-conforming. They want to consolidate what would be the remaining .55 acres of Lot J – 75 with Lots J – 73 and J – 74, creating a .75 acre lot on which they propose to build an 18 1-bedroom unit elderly housing facility. The Elderly Housing Ordinance calls for a 1 acre minimum for an elderly housing facility and allows 24 1-bedroom units on that acre. The Ordinance allows 75% lot coverage and 25% green space. This plan has only 50% lot coverage and allows for 50% green space. The building will be a two-story structure and will have an elevator. The site has sewer & water. He said that there have been no engineering studies or soil studies.
Mr. Faiman said that since this project is so complex and so far has been presented only in conceptual form, it is unlikely that the board would grant any variances at this point. But since there are abutters in the audience let’s hear from them.
Abutter Kurt Hutchinson asked why there are only 15 parking spaces in the plan when there are 18 units. Mr. Tuomala said that 18 units are not required. Not everyone in the facility will have a car. Mr. Hutchinson also said that the location of the driveway on Dale Street is extremely dangerous and not conducive to elderly drivers.
Abutter Franklin Horsley asked if the stone wall would remain at the entrance point. Mr. Tuomala didn’t know for sure. He also said that the volume and speed of traffic is horrendous at that spot.
Abutter Judith Horsley said that reducing the size of the four-family lot from .93 acres to .38 acres would not be a good thing. It would be creating more of an overuse situation than currently exists. She also said that the proposed Dale Street entrance for the elderly housing is extremely dangerous.
Abutter Jeffrey Godbois said that this Dale Street location is too dangerous an area for an elderly housing facility.
Ms. Eckstrom agreed with the abutters that Dale Street at that spot is a very treacherous road. She asked Mr. Tuomala if there has been any thoughts about entering the site from Forest Road. Mr. Tuomala said there had not been.
Mr. Faiman said that he has doubts about the elderly housing proposal but has no doubts about the lot line variance. He said it seems so far out of line that he doesn’t see even the beginning of a hardship that justifies that magnitude a reduction of lot size in that area. He pointed out that if the four-family dwelling was removed, the applicant would have more than an acre of land and would have access to Forest Road. There would be no need for any variances.
Ms. Eckstrom said that she also could not vote favorably for the elderly housing unless access could come from Forest Road.
At 11 p.m. Mr. Faiman stated that the case will be continued to Tuesday, September 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Minutes — July 8, 2003
The board decided to postpone reviewing the minutes to the September meeting.
There was a motion to adjourn and the meeting did adjourn at 11:30 p.m.
Diane Nilsson, Clerk