As you know by now, I feel the need to call out folks in Town who have placed themselves in positions of power, only to lose sight of the true purpose of those positions. I call these folks control freaks. They have a need to control everyone else……but the rules they make usually don’t apply to them.
Am I a control freak who is trying to control those that I criticize? I struggle with this question every time I write. It’s a fact that I make my protests known through my writing with the hope that others may embrace my ideas and create change. However, I have not placed myself in any position to force anyone to do anything.
This piece is about a recent ZBA meeting. I need to note that I have every respect for ZBA Chairman George Frothingham. His level headed approach to allowing folks a pass on some of our (over)regulation is nice to see. Unfortunately, he wasn’t available for the 9-16-19 meeting. Vice Chair Don Stewart ran the meeting. George had no part in the issue described below. Board member John Crowell was not present either.
A couple with property on Lovell Lake had a desire to place a 10 X 12 shed 22 feet from the shore. They wanted to do it the right way and go through the permitting process. As far as the State of New Hampshire DES is concerned, this is no problem because the State only requires that the shed be placed 20 feet from the shore. The problem is that our Town regulations require a 30 foot setback….so some say….even though it’s not entirely clear if this is actually a hard rule.
A site visit revealed that the hardship was the slope of the land that prevents the shed from being pushed further back. There’s a hill. A tree would need to be cut, but there are many trees on the lot, allowing this to be done in full compliance with all State regulations. The location of the shed was staked out. No one from the Zoning Board brought a measuring tape.
Later, at the Town Hall, the deliberations were a perfect example of how well meaning folks get appointed to a board, have no idea what the true purpose of their job is….and use their position to promote personal agendas. It’s almost as if they delight in seeing how much they can make the applicant dance. Occasionally, permit conditions are appropriate when neighbors rights need to be considered. At this hearing, no neighbors expressed any concerns.
First, we had a member who doesn’t want any tree cut down, even though it has nothing to do with the variance and cutting the tree down is well within the owners rights under all regulations. That person kept insisting the shed be relocated.
But the “conditions” placed on granting the variance were a great example of regulatory overreach.
Condition 1: The shed must be placed 25 feet back, not 22 feet as requested even though no measurements were taken by Board members at the site walk. This may require that the owner excavate part of a hill.
Condition 2: No plumbing or electrical allowed. So the grandkids can’t even use it as a change house because there is no light inside. Installing either item would require permits and monitoring from code enforcement. There was no need at all to make this a condition.
Condition 3: Infiltration trenches were also made a condition of the permit. This has nothing to do with granting a variance and would be automatically handled by code enforcement during construction.
Condition 4: The shed cannot be used for sleeping purposes. So the grandkids can pitch a tent for fun and have a sleep-out at camp, but not in the shed. Again, this has nothing to do with granting a variance.
Condition 5: The “piece-de-resistance” was insisted upon by acting chair Don Stewart, a lawyer who should know better than this. His personal agenda was that “…..No petroleum products to be stored in the building….” Let’s all understand this.…..you can have 20 gallons of gas sitting in your boat, located on the lake, but you can’t store a gas can in the shed 22 feet away from the lake. C’mon Don? What were you thinking?
In general, the board of adjustment is the body established to: hear appeals of decisions rendered by zoning administrators, interpret unclear provisions in the zoning ordinance, decide on applications by landowners to permit buildings or land uses which vary from the zoning regulations due to hardships associated with the property.
On the one hand, the owners got their variance.....with unnecessary conditions. Based on what I saw, I believe they had every right to it. However, the conditions placed were perfect examples of regulatory overreach when Board participants place their own agendas ahead of their true function and purpose.
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