ZBA OKs Rental, Deems High Property Taxes a Hardship

            On March 21, the members of the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals heard from property owners seeking a variance based on the hardship of high property taxes.

            Members of the Blake-Whitney family, longtime owners of a large two-family waterfront summer residence at 2 Ship Street, were seeking a variance to change the use of the parcel from strictly residential to a limited short-term rental property. The variance request was based on the family’s financial hardship – high property taxes and high insurance rates, as described by their representative, Attorney Richard Burke.

            In previous years, the family rented out the 13-bedroom house during the summer season, Burke said, but there were difficulties in the way renters were using the property that raised the ire of neighbors who then complained about loud music and too many vehicles jammed into the dead-end street, creating a general disturbance in the neighborhood. The family discontinued renting the property, but sought legal counsel to figure out if a plan could be formulated that abutters, Town Hall, and the property owners could all agree upon.

            The plan brought before the ZBA included all the conditions neighbors wanted to ensure the tranquility of the neighborhood. He said the family was hoping to offset the $24,000 in real estate taxes and the equal amount spent on insurance by renting the property for four weeks during the summer.

            The conditions that would be imposed on potential renters would include a maximum of 15 people during any rental period, no celebratory activities such as weddings, birthdays and the like, no installation of tents or canopies, only seven vehicles associated with the rental agreement, no boats or trailers, and that a local property manager would be engaged.

            Director of Inspectional Services Andy Bobola said this wasn’t a matter of right – the property owners were not automatically allowed to rent the property out for income, according to the bylaw. He said if the ZBA granted the hardship variance, the board could also stipulate in the decision that, after a year, the board would review the matter before allowing any further rental use of the residence after the summer of 2019. Bobola said it might give neighbors a chance to voice any concerns, but also added, “I’ve never had any issues at the property and the condition may bring a good end to this.”

            “It’s nice when neighbors come together,” said ZBA member Colby Rottler. He asked that the applicants offer up the name of a property manager before the variance agreement was issued, which on this night they had yet to select. 

            Burke also noted that if the ZBA granted the variance, an appeal to the ZBA’s prior denial of a variance – one currently languishing in the court system – would be dropped.

            The ZBA approved the variance based on the financial hardship with the conditions that the aforementioned rental agreement conditions be imposed and a property manager is appointed.

            Also coming before the ZBA were Richard Pasquill and Peter Botelho of 2 Laura Lane for 78-82 Church Street to raze the existing structures to construct a three-unit apartment complex.

            The board agreed that the existing three independent units are in derelict condition, as described by Rick Charon, the property owners’ engineer.

            Charon said the Conservation Commission has approved the stormwater management systems, clearing the way for the plan to be heard by the ZBA and the Planning Board.

            In the special permit request, the plan calls for off-street parking for six cars on an impervious surface, allowing for stormwater absorption. Charon said the setbacks were a reasonable 52 feet from Church Street and 66 feet from the rear lot line. In keeping with what the ZBA prefers for lot coverage, this plan includes lot coverage of 4,000 square feet, or 21 percent of the total lot.

            “This will be a big improvement for the neighborhood,” Charon said.

            Agreeing on that point, Bobola stated, “It’s a fantastic idea in a troubled spot – a solid plan and they’ve done a good job with the setbacks. It will be a nice piece of property on the tax roll.”

            ”The neighbors have said, ‘It’s about time,’” said Rottler.

            The special permit was granted.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals will be held on April 18 at 6:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room, pending any applications.

Mattapoisett Zoning Board of Appeals

By Marilou Newell

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