Status of Old Schoolhouse Road In Question

When Nicholas Araujo purchased 15 acres of undeveloped woodlands off what is known as Old Schoolhouse Road, the only thing on his mind was returning to the town where he had grown up as a child and settling down. It was only later when he applied for a building permit to construct his dream home that he learned Old Schoolhouse Road isn’t considered, by the current Building Department administration, as an “accepted roadway”, thereby making the issuance of a permit out of the question.

Standing before the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals on June 28 with his petition for a variance, Araujo told the four board members that the seller and the real estate agent did not disclose the non-conformance of the roadway before the sale.

“I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot,” said Araujo.

The curious case of Old Schoolhouse Road only got more curious when abutters came forward to say they were granted building permits, own homes on the roadway, and did not object to Araujo building there, but needed the roadway to be taken over by the Town.

ZBA Chairman David Arancio asked Araujo if he had a legal easement to access Old Schoolhouse Road to gain entry to the property he purchased. Araujo said he did, but was unable to prove that point since he did not have a copy of the deed in hand.

When the case was opened for public comment, most echoed the same sentiment: “The road is terrible and needs to be repaired.”

Abutters Roland and Steven Grenier said that they take care of part of the roadway, but feared that heavy construction vehicles would make an already pothole-filled dirt roadway worse. Grenier said ten roads are situated along the roadway, raising the eyebrows of the ZBA members.

“It is an old and ancient way,” said Roland Grenier, adding that the town used to take care of it when the school was out there and that he had been allowed to build his home because of that. Now, years later, Araujo’s case was unclear.

ZBA member Kirby Gilmore asked if the case could and should be continued to give Araujo the opportunity to prove the easement to Old Schoolhouse Road and to further review the status of the roadway. Gilmore said he also wanted the building inspector present at the next meeting, and Arancio added, “Town counsel, too.”

The case was continued until July 12.

Also coming before the board was one of their own, Donald Spirlet, also with a petition for a variance. In his case, Spirlet sought and received relief that will allow him to leave a pre-existing garage in its current location – in front of his home – and build a new home further into the property away from Braley Hill Road. Spirlet made the case that the old house would be razed to allow him and his wife to build a new house that will serve them better than the “old farmhouse”.

After some discussion of the bylaw that prohibits the construction of a home behind a garage, the board members felt that strict interpretation of bylaw section 8.C constituted a hardship for the applicant and that the garage in its current position, along with the proposed new home, did not change the character of the neighborhood. The variance was granted.

The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for July 12 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.

Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals

By Marilou Newell


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