The threat of not having a quorum on May 8 had the three board members present that evening scurrying to call the other four tardy Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals members to ask them to come to the scheduled public hearing.
Time was ticking after the 7:00 pm meeting opening was delayed, and at 7:15 there was still no quorum of five to hear the 7:30 pm public hearing for Mark and Elizabeth Brulport of 45 Noble Road.
Chairman Richard Cutler commented that one member was probably at home sleeping, and none of the other members answered their cell phones while a roomful of about 20 people waited to hear if the hearing would take place.
Member Randall Cabral showed up at 7:20 pm, bringing the group one member closer to a quorum, and finally at 7:27 pm, Benjamin Gilmore appeared and the quorum was met. Kirby Gilmore and Thomas Flynn did not attend the meeting.
Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, representing the Brulports, explained the couple’s plan to build a separate in-law suite for Ms. Brulport’s aging parents, which would include one added bedroom and kitchen and an additional garage bay.
“This type of addition for in-law suites has been allowed in other houses (in Rochester),” said Cavanaugh, “with less than an acre and with less frontage.” The Brulport property is over two acres.
Cavanaugh said the L-shaped 1,443 square-foot addition with the added-on garage bay would not overwhelm the existing structure.
“It’s actually much, much smaller than the existing house,” Cavanaugh said. He added that the addition would not create a nuisance or an adverse impact on the neighborhood, including property value, and Cavanaugh said he had already spoken with the building commissioner.
Robert Mather, attorney for about six homeowners from the neighborhood, argued that the erection of a second dwelling would lower property values of the other homes within the “very nice upscale housing” neighborhood where there are no two-family homes.
The Rochester zoning by-law does not address in-law suites, but rather single and multi-family homes. The special permit for the Brulports’ in-law suite would transform the dwelling into a multi-family dwelling.
Mather argued that one of the requirements to transform a single-family into a multi-family – occupation of the home for five years – was not met, since the Brulports have only lived in the house for two years. ZBA member Benjamin Gilmore later explained, however, that the five year criteria applies to the years the house has been built and occupied, and not necessarily by the same occupant.
Mather pointed out that the construction of a multi-family home requires a minimum property size of 105,000 square feet, which the Brulport property lacks.
In addition, Mather said the addition would make the house look like a duplex, which would change its character and make it inharmonious with the rest of the neighborhood.
The developer had also put a restrictive covenant on the development, stating that only one-family houses could be built within the development, but the board would not consider the covenant, calling it a civil matter and inconsequential toward the board’s decision.
June Goguen of 29 Noble Road said she bought her dream home ten years ago, never considering one of the houses would become a two-family house.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought that somebody would want to build a two-family,” said Goguen. She said she feared after the in-laws were gone, future tenants renting the space could create a nuisance.
Gilmore commented that the Brulports could construct an addition for the in-laws that would serve as an extension to the house, keeping common areas and a common kitchen to avoid the need to seek the special permit for the multi-family. He said it could still accomplish the same purpose the Brulports are seeking.
Neither Ms. nor Mr. Brulport cared to comment before the board closed the public comment section of the hearing.
“In the past, it’s been done without a lot of controversy with the abutters,” said Cutler. This time, he said he was not sure the board could mitigate the neighbors’ concerns.
“This is a tough one,” ZBA member Cabral commented.
The special permit was voted down 4-1, with Gilmore voting in favor.
By Jean Perry