Town of Wilton, NH

Zoning Board Minutes

April 14, 2009

BOARD MEMBERS: Vice Chairperson Carol Roberts; member, Joe Poisson; alternate members Andy Hoar and John Jowders.

  • Douglas K. Morse – equitable waiver or variance
  • Alice Bennett Groh and Trauger Groh – variance

Roberts called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. and introduced the board members.

Minutes — January 13, 2009

Motion(Hoar/Poisson) To accept the 1/13/09 minutes as written. Three were in favor and Jowders abstained.

Roberts explained that since only four board members were present, the applicants could opt for postponing the hearing with hopes of having a full five-member board. Both applicants said that they would like to have their hearing tonight. Roberts went over the procedures for hearing a case.

Case #4/14/09–1 — Douglas K. Morse

Douglas K. Morse has applied for either an equitable waiver or a variance to section 5.1(d) or 5.1(c) of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to legitimize an existing second dwelling on Lot F–123, 33 Morse Drive.

Mr. Morse explained that he and his wife are getting ready to retire and want to sell their property. They had an appraisal done and discovered that the apartment on their property is not considered to be legal based on the current zoning ordinance. Mr. Morse said he built the apartment in 1974. He could not locate a copy of the building permit but did provide bills from his contractor dated August 17, 1974 through March 27, 1975.

Roberts asked if Mr. Morse had a sketch or a plan showing the two dwellings. Mr. Morse brought out a subdivision plan from 1989. He explained that when he subdivided the 30-acre parcel he kept the 6.861 acre lot and sold the remaining two lots. The driveway from Abbot Hill Road then became a common driveway. He said that he now has 208’ of frontage on Abbot Hill Road. He said that he originally had 600’ of frontage and if he had known then that each dwelling needed a separate lot and 200’ of frontage, he would have subdivided the land differently.

Mr. Morse said that in 1995 he got a building permit to make part of the apartment’s screened porch into a bedroom. He provided copies of the permit and the certificate of occupancy. He said that at the time of the bedroom addition, the building inspector required that the septic system for the apartment be upgraded, which was done. He said there is a separate septic system for each dwelling but a shared well.

Mr. Morse provided a copy of an appraisal that was done in 1998 by Rockwood Appraisal. In the comment area, where the appraiser could note any illegal or legal nonconforming zoning use etc., the appraiser wrote: “There are no adverse easements, encroachments or conditions attached to this property.” Mr. Morse said that he has been paying taxes on two dwellings. He provided tax cards showing two dwellings at least as far back as far as 2003 and possibly as far back as 1982.

Roberts closed the public hearing in order that the board could deliberate. Hoar said that the original apartment was built 34 years ago before the town had zoning. He also said that in 1995 a bldg. permit and occupancy permit were issued for an additional bedroom within the screened porch section of the apartment and he has been paying taxes for two dwellings. He said he had a little concern about the fact that the apartment is being used as a rental, but it has been used as such for thirty years off and on. He said that he would be inclined to grant the equitable waiver based on Section II of RSA 674:33-a. Roberts and Poisson seemed to be in agreement.

There were no comments from members of the public.

Motion(Hoar/Poisson) To grant the equitable waiver (RSA 674:33-a) based on the findings in Section II: The dwelling was built in 1975, a subdivision was granted by the Planning Board in 1989, and a building permit to add a bedroom to the dwelling was issued in 1995. The equitable waiver legitimizes the second dwelling on the lot. All were in favor.

Case #4/14/09–2 — Alice Bennett Groh and Trauger Groh

Alice Bennett Groh and Trauger Groh have applied for a variance to section 17.1 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance, to allow a non-conforming building, which was destroyed by fire, to be rebuilt in a different location on Lot C-134, 135 Temple Road.

Alice Groh explained that she purchased the property in 1984 and the property came with a cottage located just across the driveway from the main house. They discovered that the southeast corner of the cottage was the original tack house for the farm, finding one board that said 1790 on it. They have used and will continue to use the cottage for farm apprentices to help with the work of the farm. She said that on the morning of October 31, 2008, her husband and son noticed fire in the cottage. The fire dept. was able to put it out but insurance called it a total loss, so it has been demolished.

Ms. Groh said that they would like to rebuild the cottage but in a different location, 60’ – 70’ from the present location toward the barn. She said that the old cottage was 25’ – 30’ from their home and neither dwelling had much privacy. She also said that they put in a new septic system 4 years ago: each dwelling has its own tank and they share the leach field. If the cottage could be rebuilt in the proposed location the tank would also be moved and would no longer need a pump to get the contents to the leach field from that location.

Ms. Groh introduced her builder, Phil Brooks, and her architect, Leslie Ritchie-Dunham. At the board’s request, Mr. Brooks brought forward an older plan of the property and a tracing to scale that could be laid on the older plan. The tracing shows the locations of all the buildings as well as the proposed location for the replacement cottage. It was not clear exactly where the proposed location is in relation to the 35’ setback, although the setback was shown on the older plan. The lot is 16.8 acres.

Board members considered the criteria for the use variance request. Hoar said that prong ii of the hardship criteria wasn’t really a hardship. Poisson said that he has been to that property in summer and winter and felt that the two houses being so close was perhaps a safety issue and a hindrance for fire equipment being able to get through and turn around. Board members seemed to agree that prong ii, “No fair and substantial relationship exists between the general purposes of the zoning ordinance and the specific restriction on the property” could be answered by saying that building the cottage at the same location would actually be less safe than relocating it to the proposed location, in terms of access of emergency vehicles to the property.

Jowders asked what the cottage might be used for down the line, possibly by a future owner. Hoar said that it is technically a rental now, because its use contributes to their farm income.

Roberts felt that granting the variance would be consistent with the spirit of the ordinance because the proposed location is a better and safer location.

Hoar said that the only concern he had was that there is not a set of plans that shows the exact location of the proposed building. The applicant said that she was willing to get that done.

There were no comments from members of the public.

Motion(Hoar/Jowders) To grant the requested use variance to section 17.1 of the Wilton Zoning Ordinance to allow a non-conforming building, which was destroyed by fire, to be rebuilt in a different location. The variance is subject to the following requirements: The new building can be of a different aspect ratio but the same square footage as the original building; a plan showing the location and size of the new structure within the legal building envelope of the property be submitted to the town offices. All were in favor.
Motion(Roberts/Hoar) To adjourn the meeting. All were in favor.

The meeting adjourned at 8:40 p.m.

Submitted by Diane Nilsson

Posted April 21, 2009