Accessory Apartment Pending

Alice and Brad Sheehan of 16 Inland Road are hoping to make some minor renovations to their cement block garage to provide an accessory apartment space for family visits and subsequent rental, but Marion bylaws may not provide that request so easily – documentation that an accessory apartment has been rented in the past before 2005 is required.

Right away via memorandum, Building Commissioner Scott Shippey recommended continuing the hearing because the application lacked an elevation plan and other information. Furthermore, the applicants must demonstrate that the structure – a cement garage – has a history of accessory apartment rental use.

Acting Chairman Michelle Smith read a letter by the Planning Board, which stated that it could not make a recommendation because the application was incomplete.

Alice Sheehan said the couple purchased the two-bedroom house about a year ago with the intention of working on the accessory apartment for family visits and future rent. Now with a baby due in January and only two bedrooms, the Sheehans are running out of space.

The Sheehans have solicited the services of an attorney, and Ms. Sheehan said she just wants to do whatever is required to acquire the Special Permit.

Neighbor Al Caron who has lived next door for 40 years said, “Every person who’s had that house has lived in that apartment above.”

The original builder’s son occupied the garage apartment, and Caron said that although he is unsure as to whether or not the apartment was ever ‘rented,’ he vouched for the prior accessory apartment use.

“Mostly it’s family as far as I know, not a rental,” said Caron, adding, “I totally support what the Sheehans are doing with this property. It’s in the back… Any renovation is going to improve that lot and improve that building.”

The bottom line, though, is whether the accessory apartment existed as a rental before 2005.

From what she could tell, said Ms. Sheehan, the structure was built in 1995.

“But it’s not the building that’s the concern, it’s the use,” said ZBA member Tad Wollenhaupt. “That’s all that matters to us when we look at an accessory apartment.”

Wollenhaupt added, “You’re not asking to modify the structure… You guys are asking about use. That’s the key.”

The use of the structure as an apartment rental has to be proven, not the actual structure itself, the board clarified.

“If we give permission for an accessory apartment, it has to be recorded in the deeds, so you might check your deeds,” said ZBA member Betsy Dunn.

Wollenhaupt added, “You might not be zoned for multi-family or rental property.”

“When a permit is granted for an accessory apartment … it’s recorded on the deed and it’s not when the property is sold,” said Dunn. “That doesn’t mean the accessory apartment can be used before going before the ZBA again.” Dunn continued, “It sounds like he built it for his son.”

The apartment currently has heat, a bathroom, and a sink, said Ms. Sheehan, but no kitchen appliances.

Another issue that arose was an existing cesspool in back yard, and it is unknown whether it is still in use by the apartment. Although the Board of Health found no opposition to the accessory apartment use, the board wondered if it was aware that a cesspool existed on the property.

Cesspools are no longer allowable in Marion.

“We’re not here to hinder. We’re here to help you,” said Wollenhaupt.

At that, the board clarified what it needed from the Sheehans pertaining to further information, and the hearing was continued until January 11.

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for December 14 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry


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