Breezeway Changes Everything

            Carlos and Jennifer Varnum may add a two-story garage and expand their house at 534D Point Road, but a by-right project became a public hearing for a special permit all because of a breezeway.

            The only case heard by the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals on March 14 was a “quirky” one by Building Commissioner Bob Grillo’s estimation because the breezeway connecting the garage to the existing house triggered the application of Section 230-6.1 e (1) of the Marion Zoning Bylaw that limits the height increase of an existing structure to 10%.

            The bylaw allows the reconstruction, extension or change of a nonconforming single and two-family house with the approval of the building commissioner provided the alteration does not increase the nonconformity.

            “The reason it requires a special permit is because they’re increasing the height by more than 10 percent, and they’re increasing the height of the existing building by more than 10 percent because it’s attached,” explained Grillo, who offered the applicants the option of going without the breezeway and, given its conforming setbacks, thereby canceling the need for a special permit. “They could have that same structure in the same spot and it wasn’t attached, it’s by right. But because it’s attached, in essence they’re increasing the size of the existing structure by more than 10 percent.”

            Representative Chris Leaver of New Bedford-based Turowski2 “T2” Architecture presented on the Varnums’ behalf.

            Leaver said that the attached garage, at 24 feet and 8 inches, will exceed the height of the house (19.5 feet at its peak) by more than the allowable 10%. A second part of the project will expand the house in the back but will not add to the height of the house.

            Marion’s height limit is 35 feet.

            Leaver said that the second floor of the garage will be used for storage. He said the owner’s business results in many boxes. He said current plans call for an unfinished interior.

            “At this current point, it is not going to be looked at as any kind of other or additional living dwelling. It is strictly for storage,” said Leaver, who clarified by adding there is no plumbing or heating in the plan.

            Being a Special Permit application and not a variance, the owner did not need to prove hardship. Leaver referenced a meeting with the Conservation Commission that made comments regarding where an existing shed can be located. There were no comments from neighbors.

            Member Will Tifft asked about overall lot coverage. Leaver did not have that information on hand but considers it a small increase percentage-wise because of the size of the lot. Grillo said the 40% lot-coverage limit does not apply to a ZBA application that is not seeking a variance.

            “If for some reason when they come in for the permit, I’ll be asking for (lot coverage), and if it doesn’t match that number, I won’t issue the building permit, and they would have to come back (to the ZBA) for a variance),” said Grillo.

            Along with Tifft, Chairperson Cindy Callow and members Dani Engwert, Joan Gardner and Jeff Doubrava voted unanimously to grant the Special Permit.

            The Marion Zoning Board of Appeals did not schedule its next meeting upon adjournment.

Marion Zoning Board of Appeals

By Mick Colageo

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