2018 Raymond Zoning Board of Adjustments Meetings

Raymond Zoning Board Considers Variances to Site 10 Condos, Offices on 1.6 Acres
By Penny Williams   10-28-18

The Raymond Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) is considering five variances that would change the use of 1.6 acres on Freetown Road.

At its Oct. 24 meeting, the ZBA heard an application for five variances submitted by Charles Cleary of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters on behalf of Timothy Peloquin regarding property he wishes to develop for sale on Freetown Road.

ZBA member Paul McCoy told the board as soon as the meeting began that he was a real estate broker and had worked on this parcel for a number of years. He said he knew the owner and had been engaged to market the parcel for years, but was not presently involved. “I don’t feel any conflict,” he said and noted he thinks he could be independent in his consideration of the applicant's requests.

The board was polled and no one had a problem with his continuing despite his relationship with the property and the owner. McCoy thus did not recuse himself from discussion or voting.

Cleary said Peloquin’s plan is to build 10 two-bedroom condominium units and a 2,715-square-foot office building on 1.62 acres in the C1 zone. The property exists in a narrow strip of C1 sandwiched between C2 mixed and residential zones.

The responsibility of the ZBA is to determine if a requested variance meets the following criteria:
• Granting the variance would not be contrary to the public interest.
• The use would not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance.
• By granting the variance, substantial justice would be done.
• No diminution in values of surrounding properties would result.
• Denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship.

The first variance sought relief from the ordinance’s minimum 5-acre lot size for multi-family housing. The second sought relief from the ordinance section that requires use of data from the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules ENV-WS 100: Subdivision and Individual Sewage Disposal System Design Rules in calculating the number of allowed bedrooms per acre of developable land.
The third variance sought relief from the section stating that building setbacks shall not be less than that of the underlying zone, except that any structure shall be set back 75 feet from any existing Town or State road and the additional side and rear setback requirements shall be applicable as appropriate, except that within Zone C1, Section 15.2.6 and Section 15,2.7 shall not apply.

The fourth variance sought relief the section stating all buildings on less than 2 acres  shall require setbacks of 25 feet from all property lines. Setbacks in Zone C1 are 15 feet for side, rear and front.

The final variance seeks relief from the non-allowance of multi-family housing in zone C1. Zone C1 is Commercial, designed for the purpose of “centralizing the provision of basic goods and services. Single or multi-family housing is specifically not permitted.

Cleary said a site plan for the parcel was approved in 2005 and calls for the development of a 22,000-square-foot office building with 78 parking spaces. Peloquin has tried to market the property and the commercial building unsuccessfully for 13 years and has now decided to change course and market a mixed-use plan instead. The biggest drawback to the commercial use of the property was stated to be the lack of direct access off Route 107, which is not allowed by the State.

Cleary argued that mixed use was the most efficient use of the property.

He claimed the proposal was not contrary to the public interest and was consistent with the spirit of the ordinance because the lack of direct access to a main road makes it a poor place for commercial development. He added that the mixed-use plan is in keeping with the surrounding residential lots.

He said substantial justice would be done because the property cannot be marketed as commercial and its mixed use will allow it to be put it back on the Town tax base. He said buffers around the residential structures and the office building would be built to the highest standards and would not diminish but instead would increase surrounding property values more than the current empty lot and foundation.

Regarding the hardship criteria, he said its failure to sell for 13 years despite aggressive efforts means the change to a hybrid residential development and small business office that Peloquin is considering using for his own business may make it marketable. He noted that while the surrounding lots are generally residential, there are commercial lots; thus, mixed use would be a reasonable use for this property.

Cleary pointed out that the proposed use of the lot meets the legislative safety net for hardship - if the lot cannot be used in strict conformance with the ordinance, a variance is necessary to allow reasonable use. He emphasized that Peloquin had tried to make it work as a commercial property but had been unsuccessful.

McCoy suggested that the first and last variances could be considered as one but the board was not in favor of doing so and decided to start with the fifth request, a variance from the ordinance requiring that there be no multi-family housing in Zone C1.

Before going over the actual variance requests, the board asked if the septic system can be properly placed on the property and if it would meet the requirements of the 10 units and office building. The answer was stated as yes to both.

The board asked the size of the condo units and were told they would be between 1,400-and 1,600-square-foot units designed primarily as workforce housing, and thus did not anticipate families with children or excess traffic. A traffic study had been done and approved for the 2005 plan with 79 parking spaces; the current plan proposes half that number of spaces.

Abutters Patricia Bridgeo and John Taylor spoke to the board and submitted a formal letter of complaint Oct. 25 against the ZBA (see Complaint Against the Raymond Zoning Board of Adjustment).

Bridgeo said there are several commercial lots in the area that have not sold even after they were offered as mixed use, and expressed concern about putting 10 units on a 1.6-acre parcel, suggesting that this has the potential to be a cost to the Town, should single parents with children use these dwellings.

She pointed out the neighbors did not object to the original proposed commercial development because it would be small, with professionals coming and going from work. She said, however, that now she and others think this proposal will bring traffic issues to their community and expressed concern over the type of owner who would be attracted to workforce housing. She said the proposal is not an equitable solution for the neighborhood.

The abutters questioned why the Town would allow multi-family housing in the C1 zone and noted the requirement is for 5 acres. They pointed out that the hardship of the owner should not become the neighbors' hardship. The abutters also said the proposed plan would reduce their property values.

Abutter Tim Louis said he is concerned about the impact on those who live in the neighborhood. He indicated 20-plus cars going in and out daily on the already busy side roads would be an added traffic issue, especially for those trying to get onto Route 107 when it is already difficult to do so.

A letter was read into the record from Raymond Arsenault expressing concerns about the proposed development as well. The letter referenced the extreme difference between the Town-required 5 acres for multi-family dwellings and the proposed 10 multi-family dwellings proposed for 1.6 acres. He expressed a concern that the family well would be impacted by the development’s septic system, and noted traffic issues. Lastly the letter said that if the proposal were appropriate, it would fit in without any impact on setbacks, and the Town prohibits multi-family dwellings in the C1 zone.

Cleary responded to the comments by noting that when there are parcels such as this along a highway such as Route 107, the multi-family approach is often better than single-family residential dwellings. He said the units would be attractive and those who would own them would be “reasonable families.” The point was also made that this type of housing does not attract single parents with children because of the lack of children in the neighborhood.

Peloquin said he was not threatening the board but added that if this proposal is turned down, he will put a commercial development on the parcel that could well be less acceptable to the surrounding residential families and the Town.

McCoy argued for approving the variance regarding prohibition of multi-family dwellings in the C1 zone by saying there would be more difficulties with a commercial development and this use is better. The board discussed this and then went through the five criteria for each member.

None saw this as being contrary to the public interest or to the spirit of the ordinance but member Joyce Wood noted a density concern. All the members saw substantial justice being done by approving it, and as for diminishing other property values, said this would improve values over the current vacant lot with an unfinished foundation. On the hardship criteria they all alluded to the fact that the parcel had not sold in 13 years as a commercial development to show this proposal was a reasonable use.

They voted 5-0 to grant the variance to allow multi-family dwellings in a C1 zone.

McCoy then suggested approving the first variance request regarding the requirement for a minimum lot size of 5 acres for multi-family dwellings, as they had already approved allowing the multi-family development in a C1 zone, but member Stephen Feher said he wanted to discuss it so they proceeded through the criteria.

Feher said in his opinion this was contrary to the public interest and would alter the character of the neighborhood. McCoy argued that as they had already approved multi-family in C1, that did not hold.

Wood saw it as possibly being contrary, given the density issue, and alternate member Marc Vadeboncoeur agreed, but McCoy said there are times when more concentration is a good thing. Feher again noted he thought the request was in conflict with the spirit of the ordinance and Wood agreed again, referring to the density issue.

McCoy again said that as the board had already approved a multi-family dwelling in the C1 zone, that took care of this concern.

There was a brief discussion about re-voting on the previous article but it was decided that they had made a decision and should move on.

No issues were raised concerning substantial justice, but Feher said he thought approving this would significantly change the character of the neighborhood, and Wood and Feher saw possible diminished property values for surrounding properties. When it came to the hardship criteria, Feher said he didn't see this as a reasonable use but the others did not agree. The final vote was 3-2, with Feher and Vadeboncoeur voting no.

By this time it was almost 10 p.m. and the board had to be out of the building per School District requirements by 10 p.m. Although McCoy wanted the board to approve the three remaining variance requests that night, the board agreed to continue the hearing to Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m.









































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