The Block Island Times

Zoning Board allows height variance for shed on Corn Neck Rd.

By Judy Tierney | Jun 03, 2013

The Zoning Board approved a height variance for an existing non-conforming accessory building off Corn Neck Road at “Batteyville,” plat 4, lot 32-3. The vote was four in favor (members Elizabeth Connor, Susan Bush, Kate Butcher, Robert Lamoureaux) and one against (David Morrison) at the May 22 meeting. Claire McElderry recused herself.

The property has a three unit condominium complex with outbuildings. The case under question is a rebuild of a shed in which two extra feet of height was requested in part of the building.

In rendering the decision, Chair Elizabeth Connor said there have been a number of other hearings in which the board has given expanded headroom without additional floor space, one being in Minister’s Lot. Vice Chair Butcher recalled that the Hayback residence off Corn Neck Road was granted a dormer for a bathroom without additional floor space.

Variances are granted for hardship, but not when the hardship is created by the property owner. Connor maintained that this application’s hardship was created by the town’s building official who issued a building permit and then found that the measurements on the site plan were in error. “The owner went through proper channels and through no fault of their own, the permits were not proper,” she said.

In addition, Connor said the application did not increase non-conformity or the footprint, and there would not be any additional bedrooms.

“We have to balance the rights of abutters [with the applicants],” said board member David Morrison, who voted against the decision. But Connor countered that “We are not here for that but to look at what is reasonable. Just because a neighbor does not like it, they shouldn’t be held to a higher standard.”

In another case claiming hardship, a new house off Center Road on plat 18, lot 45-2, owned by Robert and Tara Wall, the board told the applicants their hardship was self- created. The builder, Jerry Riker, and realtor Gail Ballard Hall, presented the case in which the architect failed to take the right-of-way through the property into account when calculating lot coverage.

The board faced a unique situation in hearing this application, as members had possible conflicts. Board member Susan Bush hires Riker as a contractor at her home, McElderry worked on the septic system for the applicants, and Connor manages Riker at the Manisses Inn Restaurant. With all of them recused, there would not have been a quorum. Butcher determined that Bush did not have any financial gain by hiring Riker and allowed her to partake.

The upside-down Nantucket house was to be surrounded with decks, and a set of stairs on one side was to lead to the upper floors. When the lot coverage was corrected, there was too much footage and the home exceeded the allowed 3 percent coverage. The board concurred that the hardship was self-created and not eligible for a variance.

However, members of the board gathered around the maps with Riker and Ballard Hall to help find a way to decrease the size of the decks and steps to fit the requirements. Butcher suggested making the front decks smaller, but Riker said they were already built. Lamoureaux then suggested leaving off one side deck and making the side deck with steps narrower.

“You’re so close,” Morrison said. “Make it work and you won’t have to come back.”

Public hearings were set for two applications. Robert Rose returned with a shed plan that had been granted a variance recently, saying it needed adjustment. The second was for an enclosure around an outdoor shower owned by Charles and Michele Gay. At first glance, board members were in agreement that if there was no roof and no permanent base, the enclosure counted as a fence and no variance was needed. But the owner thought perhaps that might change, so a hearing was scheduled for June.

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