The Block Island Times
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Shed project on Corn Neck Road debated

By Judy Tierney | May 02, 2013

Attorneys for two sets of neighbors vigorously staked out their positions at a Zoning Board hearing Wednesday evening, debating over whether two extra feet of building height should be allowed for a shed rebuild on property owned by Battyville LLC, (plat 4, lot 32, unit 3), off Corn Neck Road.

At the close of that hearing, members of the board engaged in a discussion but did not come to an agreement over whether or not to approve the variance for the additional height.

Attorney William Landry, representing Battyville property owner Bob McDevitt, argued that the building would either have two roof heights or need a flat roof at an 11-foot 6-inch height if the owner is not granted the variance.

The shed first came to the attention of the zoning board in January, when neighbors Edith Blane and Chris Blane noticed it was not being rebuilt on the site of the demolished shed. Building Official Marc Tillson had issued a permit as a new shed based on information he said was given to him by the owner. He had not realized it was a rebuild, however, and when he did, he issued a stop work order.

At its January meeting, the zoning board decided the shed was an accessory structure, which is a conforming use, but the height was non-conforming. The original shed had a flat and lower roof, and the owner would therefore need a variance to build it.

Defending the roof height on Wednesday, McDermitt’s builder Geoffrey Hall was questioned by both attorneys. He testified the shed needed the extra height to allow proper egress from the window and door, and it would improve the aesthetics. If the shed was kept to the lower height as the zoning ordinance requires, the roof would have to be flat or slightly pitched. “The owner wants it to look nice, not like a chicken coop,” Hall said.

The Blanes, represented by Attorney Joseph Priestley, contended there is no hardship that would compel the increased roof height. Hardship is the underlying rationale governing the granting of variances. The only hardship, Priestley maintained, was self-imposed. “What is hardship?” he asked. “Mr. McDermitt can rebuild the shed as is.”

Underlying the Blanes’ opposition to the proposed height of the building was the possibility that it might eventually be used as housing, even though the accessory use would forbid residential use. Battyville LLC has only one of three condominium units on the 86,500-square foot lot, each with one dwelling.

After the hearing was closed, Chair Elizabeth Connor offered to write a motion in favor of the variance to be voted on at the May meeting. “Windows and doors are allowed in accessory buildings,” she said. Member Kate Butcher spoke in favor also, saying that the design “will improve the property.”

Board member David Morrison opposed granting a variance. “I don’t believe we are arguing about two feet, but it is still a non conforming use, an expansion dimensionally. They could achieve the height by a step-down, but already poured the foundation. It is self-imposed,” he said. He offered to write a motion against granting the variance.

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