SHIRLEY -- Among correspondence and other business the Board of Health discussed Monday night was a request from a Baywoods Drive resident who wants to add to an existing in-law apartment above the garage of his home.
The original building permit categorizes the existing house as single-family with three bedrooms and a septic system designed for four bedrooms. Records show the former building inspector permitted the in-law space, which added another bedroom. The assessors noted the above-garage apartment for tax purposes in 1996, six years after the house was built.
Although today's zoning regulations would allow an in-law apartment over the garage, rules at the time did not, health board member and building inspector Donald Farrar pointed out. At that time, the regulations called for a 10-year waiting period after construction to request a variance for that purpose, he said.
The current in-law apartment in question is 400 square feet, well within the 500-square-foot limit for most in-law apartments, but the expansion would exceed that benchmark.
"I'd say no unless he upgrades the septic system," Chairman Joseph Howlett said.
Mr. Harrod, of 83 Groton Road, has a similar request in the pipeline. He wants to build a 780-square-foot in-law apartment over the garage on his 10-acre property.
Harrod needs to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals with his request, board members said. However, since it will call for a Title 5 (septic system) inspection, that's health board territory and they considered asking the sanitarian to weigh in.
Scanning the sketches, he noted the set-up was quite elaborate. "Nice layout, but he'll need to upgrade his septic system," he said.
Member Jackie Esielionis cautioned that the board must be consistent, aligning with a previous request from former Selectman Andy Deveau, who built an in-law apartment for his father when he constructed his house several years ago.
Farrar added that the 500-square-foot limit can be trumped by another regulation that allows an in-law addition to be larger, up to 25 percent of the total square footage of the existing house, which in this case has a septic designed for a four-bedroom, single-family home. Compliance hinges on what the owner now has in place, he said.
With a dozen private trash haulers now serving customers in Shirley, the Board of Health invited them all to come in and talk about recently established regulations. Two showed up.
Bill Hanley, representing Charles George Companies, Trash and Recycling, said his firm filed an application and paid the fee, as required. Now, the board wanted to know if the company knows the rules and is following them.
Question: How do you handle recyclables?
Answer: We use two collection containers, although we do single-stream recycling.
Mixing household trash with recyclable items isn't a viable option, Hanley said, since the mix can't be effectively separated and the load would be contaminated.
Chairman Joseph Howlett explained that the state wants every community to meet a 55 percent recycling quota to qualify for grants, and private haulers' practices are part of the picture, as well as North Star, the company the town contracts with. "We strive for that, but some haulers don't," he said.
"We've made a big commitment to recycling," Esielionis said, and thanked Hanley for his company doing its part.
The company has six customers in town, four of which are new. Most are commercial customers, plus an apartment building, Hanley said. Asked about frequency of pick-ups, he said they are on-call for most customers, but a couple are on a weekly cycle.
Hanley satisfactorily answered all the board's questions, but before leaving the table, he offered some advice. "I will make a recommendation," he said. For residential pick-up, use smaller containers for trash, larger for recycling. Folks might not like it at first but they soon get used to it and before long, recycling increases and trash decreases.
A representative of Fiore Trucking Co. in Fitchburg also said the application was in, with a check for the fee and a list of 50 customers. Fiore pick-ups are once a week, on Thursdays, and they report tonnage twice a year, as required.
All well and good, but the single bins Fiore provides its customers caused concern. "We noticed all your pick-ups (trash and recycling) go into one container," Farrar noted. "How do you sort them?"
"We tell our customers to put them in separate bags and we separate them at the facility," she said.
That didn't sit well with the board. "We require two bins, one for each," Howlett told her. "That's how we handle it with our hauler here in town." The board told her they expect Fiore to do the same. She agreed.
As for educating customers, another item on the board's to-do list, Fiore answers customers questions but hasn't done any outreach, such as handouts to identify items that can and can't be recycled, she said. The company will look into doing so, she said.
Chickens on the loose
About 20 free-roaming chickens belonging to a Groton Road resident have been wandering onto neighbors' land and into the busy roadway. The owner can't be allowed to do that, they said. The issue raises the question of whether the owner has a chicken house on his property for the birds to stay inside overnight. Members agreed to ask Animal Control Officer Earl Hamel to check out the situation.