ZBA Questions Garage Height in Variance Request

            The Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals on September 26 had no issues with Mary and Michael Fitzgerald’s variance application to build a single-story barn/accessory structure when it came to square-footage and its location in the front yard, but the request to allow its height to exceed that of the principal house raised questions.

            Mary Fitzgerald said she and her husband were looking for the “perfect property” as they planned for their retirement, and this past June they bought their place at 83 Hiller Road.

Variance, over 1,000 square feet in size and in front yard. What they need, though, is a big garage to store all their many belongings, which includes several trailers, a boat with a trailer, a camper, salvaged architectural pieces, a fireplace, table saws, and a tractor. But they also want it to enhance their property and match the style of their house.

            ZBA member Richard Cutler thought it sounded a bit like they would be running a business from the residence, but Fitzgerald assured him that they would not.

            The board then turned to the three conditions required to justify a variance: unique shape or topography of the land, financial hardship, and whether the proposal would negatively impact the neighborhood. ZBA member Kirby Gilmore suggested the hardship could be that the couple’s belongings would be subject to the outside elements.

            “Normally the applicant is supposed to tell us what the hardships are,” said Cutler to Gilmore who promptly proceeded to point out the topography element of the location of Leonard’s Pond preventing the siting of the garage anywhere else but in the front yard.

            ZBA member Tom Flynn said he understood the need for variances for the square footage in excess of 1,000 square feet, and the need to locate the garage in the front yard, but he could not find the need for the garage to exceed the height of the house at 33 feet.

            “I’m struggling with that,” said Cutler.

            Cutler also thought building height should be addressed through a special permit.

            The plan, however, never specified the height of the proposed garage. Without an engineer’s notation on the plan, the board had to continue the hearing to allow the Fitzgeralds to satisfy the board’s request.

            “That would be a reasonable request,” said Fitzgerald.

            “My fear is that… we fumble something and it creates a hardship,” said Chairman David Arancio.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for October 10 at 7:15 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry

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