On July 11 at the meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), David Fletcher of 42 Old Tuck Bog Road stood before the board and those who attended to hear the proceedings for his request for a Variance and a Special Permit to continue running his home-based business at his residence.
Acting Chairman Davis Sullivan asked Fletcher to explain the reason for his applications.
“I just want to keep what I have now – nothing more, nothing less” Fletcher began.
Fletcher explained that for over 20 years he had operated his excavation business from his home without any issues with the neighbors. What few issues had arisen were quickly corrected, he said, because he “respected the neighbors.”
As a fuller picture of Fletcher’s business and his permits, or lack thereof, with the Town of Rochester were explored, several abutters complained about noise emitting from his property, while one abutter vehemently supported the manner in which he conducted his business.
The ZBA asked whether the Rochester address was Fletcher’s legal and/or primary residence, whether or not he had a valid business license issued by the town, if stockpiling of sand and stumps was taking place on the property, if there were at least 14 unregistered vehicles on the property, and if loud loam screening operations disturbed the peace of the neighborhood.
Fletcher said he lived in “multiple locations” and that he was not a registered voter in any of the towns in which he owns property, but has continuously lived in Rochester for six months. It surfaced that a business license with the town he once held had since expired and had not been renewed. He supported this lack of action by indicating he had a right to run a business from his private residence and a license was not required.
Fletcher also acknowledged that he had received notification of non-compliance from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program because a large portion of the more than 20 acres he owns was mapped as critical wildlife habitat, and some activities on the site could threaten the resource area.
Fletcher then went into detail explaining that his registered GMC trucks need parts that were now obsolete and therefore he used the unregistered vehicles as “donors” for the registered ones.
When it came to the stockpiling of scrap metals, sands, and stumps, Fletcher said that in the past some materials had been stored at the site, but as of March 2019 all had been cleaned up with the exception of the occasional small pile of sand and some stumps that were on the property when he purchased it 26 years ago.
As for loam screening activities, Fletcher said that when the level of noise created by his actions was brought to his attention, he immediately stopped and had never returned to screening at the Rochester location.
One abutter took severe umbrage to Fletcher’s business.
“When I gave him rights to cross my road it was to build a house, not run a business,” exclaimed Ron Belrose. “I’m 100-percent opposed. He runs seven days a week, trucks coming in at full speed, full of stumps …” He said that the screening produced horrific noises and that he often hears truck doors and tailgates slamming.
“This is a vast exaggeration,” said Fletcher. “The trucks leave in the morning and return at night, never back and forth. Not one load of stumps has been dumped in 15 years.”
In a long continued rebuttal, Fletcher said he had made mistakes in the past, but not since 2013. He said he had a legal right of way over Old Tuck Bog Road according to state regulations. With directness he said that Belrose was “lying.”
Rochester’s legal counsel, Blair Bailey, said that Fletcher had been advised that he needed a permit to run a business from his home. The permit would require one employee be a relative who must live on the property, and one outside employee would also be allowed. Fletcher explained that his brother did work for him, but lived in Wareham, and that other workers were, except for one, independent contractors.
Charles Morgan, another abutter, asked where the vehicles were actually registered. Fletcher said addresses other than Old Tuck Bog Road.
Sandy Keese, 23 Looks Mill Lane, Fletcher’s closest abutter, was also his biggest advocate.
“I’ve never seen more trucks than what David said,” Keese stated. “The trucks go out in the morning and come back at night.” She said that anytime she did have an issue with Fletcher, he was receptive and respectful. Keese said she also works from home and is home all day; therefore, she’d know if there were issues at Fletcher’s location. If the operation increased, she added, that might prove to be problematic, but as things stood now, she found no problem with the business.
Building Commissioner Jim Buckles confirmed that the site had been cleared of tires, scrap metal, sand, and other landscape materials. He provided photos to support his observations and said he had no problem with the site at this time.
After an hour and 15 minutes, the public hearing closed.
By 8:40 pm, the ZBA had rendered its decision.
The majority granted the Variance (with member Kirby Gilmore dissenting), which will allow for up to 14 unregistered vehicles, a nod to Fletcher’s need for donor vehicles to keep his registered vehicles operational. The board added the condition that no operation of vehicles be inconsistent with a Special Permit, and restricted the Variance to the current property owner.
But on the matter of granting a Special Permit for the business, the board unanimously denied the request.
Before rendering their decision, Gilmore and ZBA member Tom Flynn concluded that Fletcher had more than one outside employee and was therefore running an unpermitted business from his residence. The other board members agreed.
The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for July 25 at 7:15 pm in the Town Hall meeting room.
Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals
By Marilou Newell