PEPPERELL — A public hearing on variances to reduce the amount of nonwetland area in a Nashua Road building lot drew a larger than normal crowd to the most recent Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting that included one selectman.
John Chapman requested, and eventually received, the variances for 60A Nashua Road, but the process involved hiring two attorneys, making many copies of plot plans to be passed around and more than a hour of ZBA time.
At the heart of concerns were a set of seven-year-old plans for which a sewer connection had been waived providing that a common driveway be constructed. The driveway shown on the plan was not on Chapman’s land, it was on the abutter’s.
“I almost had a heart attack,” said Robert Wright, owner of the abutting 60B Nashua Road.
Wright hired attorney Nicole Talbot for the hearing. Chapman hired attorney Thomas Gibbons.
Gibbons explained Chapman had been given the nonconforming lot as a life estate by his mother, Joyce, who had owned the entire 3.03 acre parcel since 1977. She had always planned to build a retirement home on it.
The lot was created when the hammerhead parcel was split into two lots in an approval not required decision by the Planning Board in 1979. The decision was never recorded at the Registry of Deeds.
Talbot explained that a 1999 variance had conditioned the Chapman lot be connected to town sewer and allow for the common drive to Wright’s land. Chapman had not acted on the variance.
A mistake in the plan showed some of Wright’s easement was taken by the Chapman lot. It was this plan that Wright thought was the subject of last week’s hearing. The plan labeled Chapman’s lot as not buildable.
According to Talbot, Wright had never signed off on the plan but that is now moot because the 1998 variance has expired. He produced a new, corrected plan at last week’s hearing that fixes the mistakes of the former.
Talbot said the town has told him it does not plan to extend a sewer line to Chapman’s property for at least 10 to 15 years. He said Chapman plans to build a single-family home with an accessory apartment but no percolation tests have yet been done for a septic system.
Selectman John Lynch, speaking as a private citizen, was not pleased with the sewer decision.
“For some reason the DPW board [recently] decided to [sewer] Townsend and Mason streets but the DPW board left Hollis and Mill streets out of service,” he said. “Chapman deserves to have a house if the sewer criteria has been met.”
Chapman’s lot has 17,732 contiguous square feet of upland (nonwetland) land. The town’s lot shape calculation in its bylaws requires at least 30,000 square feet of such land and a shape calculation of greater than .4. It’s current shape calculates at .32.
A Conservation Commission letter questioned whether the area cited in the plan is accurate. Its letter noted the previous variances had expired and none has been approved in the past three years. It suggested a new wetland delineation be done.
All other comments from boards were dismissed because they dealt with the expired, incorrect former plan.
“My only concern is that we need to delineate the wetland line with the Conservation Commission,” said ZBA member Sherrill Rosoff.
ZBA member Christine Morrissey replied, “They are welcome to come to this public hearing.”
Chapman’s abutter, Jeanine Butler of 58 Nashua Road, said she has no objection to Chapman’s plan providing the property doesn’t become any wetter.
Her husband, William Butler, said, “I just don’t want a castle built next to a one-story ranch as is happening in other parts of town.”
The variances were granted unanimously.
After the meeting, Wright said he remains convinced that had he not hired an attorney, the original plans would have been presented to the ZBA.