Apartment conversion denied By Pippa Jack

Sat, 01/31/2004 - 6:00am
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An application to convert the second floor of a West Side Road garage into a bedroom and bathroom didn't get the necessary approval from a divided Zoning Board Wednesday, Jan. 28.

The marathon meeting began and ended with discussion about how the board could schedule enough meetings to accommodate the three fast-tracked housing projects that have recently landed on the town. Other matters before the board included four hearings, seven applications and a decision on Robert Grillo's application for a multi-family development.

In the garage conversion case, Leonard Perfido, an architect, came before the board in 1997 seeking permission to build a garage for storage and mechanicals. At that point, he assured the board that it would not be used for human habitation.

But he told the board late last year that he now needs the space because his three-bedroom house can't accommodate all four of his children when they visit at the same time. He and his wife are spending more time on the island, he added, and plan to continue to do so.

Three members voted to deny the application, in large part because the earlier zoning decision specifically stipulated that the garage was unsuitable for human habitation. It could have been build in another place on the lot where it would have been further from the property boundaries, said Chris Lischke in a motion to deny, in which case it wouldn't have needed a variance from the board in the first place and the stipulation wouldn't have been made; the applicants therefore created their own hardship. Board members Kate Atwater Butcher and Ned Connelly voted in agreement.

Board members Judith Cyronak and Ray Torrey, however, voted to approve. The 1997 ordinance didn't recognize accessory residential structures, said Cyronak, as the present ordinance does, leaving more room for such applications in current decisions. In addition, the steep topography of the land made the placing of the garage difficult, so that the property itself, rather than the applicants, had created the hardship from which the applicants sought relief.

The application would have needed a 4-1 vote in favor to get approval, so the split vote was a de facto denial.

Grillo decision

Robert and Joann Grillo won approval for a detached multi-family development on their property off Champlin's Road. The 14.7-acre lot allows plenty of room for the proposed new building, and the application got favorable reviews from the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. However, a notice of violation from the Coastal Resources Management Council must be resolved before construction can start, said Butcher, reading the motion that was unanimously approved.

Hearings

The board spent more than an hour each on two hearings. One was an appeal by Beth Rowe and Brower Hatcher of Southwest Point of a violation notice they'd received last fall. The town found plumbing in the couple's barn that they didn't have permission for, and suspected them of setting up the top floor of the barn, approved as an office, for overnight habitation.

Hatcher and Rowe protested that they didn't realize they needed a permit to install pipes if they weren't hooked up to the mains, and said that the twin beds and lamps set up on the second floor were there in storage and to act as sofas.

The board didn't make a decision on the appeal, but in informal discussion after the meeting, members appeared to be leaning toward upholding the violation notice.

Christopher Lischke, who had to recuse himself from the board to act as an applicant, and his wife Marcy had a hearing on the 16-by-16-foot work and storage shed they want to install on their small West Side Road lot. Lischke needs the shed to store tools and potentially hazardous things, like gasoline, that are currently in the basement of his house. His neighbor objected to its size and placing.

Again, no decision was made, but unofficial discussion in a work session after the meeting revealed that board members seem likely to approve the application, which isn't overly large and meets a genuine need, they said.

Quicker hearings on Douglas and Candace Mott's after-the-fact application for an apartment and lot-line change, both completed 18 years ago, and on Chris Whitman's plans to build dormers and a new patio on his new house both appeared likely to garner favorable decisions. An official vote on all the hearings is likely to take place next month.

Applications

The board heard seven applications, and scheduled hearings for all of them in February: Jay and Nancy Hutnak need a variance to build a two-bedroom home on their 14-acre Beach Avenue lot; Hatcher and Rowe will come back to ask permission to install a bathroom in their barn; At Lillian English's home on Ocean Avenue, Christopher Fabry is applying to rebuild and enclose a side porch to create a laundry room; Thurston and Nancy Hartford need permission for a tear-down and rebuild at their Corn Neck Road property; Offshore Trading's Mike Finnimore wants to extend last year's permission to renovate Captain Nick's nightclub; Clifford Theve, for West Side Vistas, is applying to convert the West Side Baptist Church into a home; and Edwin and Janet Merritt will get a hearing on whether they may build a deck at their house in Ebbett's Hollow.

Housing projects

Besides its regularly scheduled monthly meetings, the board needs to accommodate three housing projects (see Pages 12 and 13) that, under state law, get a fast-tracked approval process because they contain an affordable component. The board wants to hear each separately. The hearing on Seawinds was opened late last year and continued to March 15 for more expert testimony. Two new hearings, for New Harbor Village and Captain's Hill, need to be opened within 30 days; with the applicants' permission, that appears likely to stretch a little. The board puzzled over dates, an exercise complicated by the fact that this is the time of year at which many take their yearly vacations. In the end, nothing firm was set, although multiple meetings in March appear likely.