Councilors could appeal the recent decision by the Zoning Board of adjustment to grant, for the second time, a variance for a proposed storage facility at 343 Island Pond Road.
At press time, the council members were scheduled to discuss the variance at their regular meeting, set for Tuesday, May 16.
Councilors could decide to appeal the ZBA’s approval of the variance to Rockingham Superior Court, according to officials.
The ZBA voted 3-2 at their May 4 meeting to grant, for the second time this year, a variance to the property at 343 Island Pond Road for a proposed 138- unit storage facility. In an earlier meeting on April 6, the attorneys for the two sides each had an opportunity to rebut. Attorney Matthew Serge represented the town and Attorney Bernard Campbell represented Robert Allen, the applicant.
On March 2, the ZBA granted a request from the Town Council to hold a rehearing.
Citing new references to case law, ZBA members voted to approve the council’s request for a rehearing. Serge, who represents the town, made new references to case law that weren’t presented in the previous hearing, ZBA members said.
Despite the opposition of abutters, the ZBA voted on Jan. 19 to grant a variance to the property at 343 Island Pond Road for a proposed 138- unit storage facility.
In the Jan. 19 meeting, ZBA members conditionally granted a variance to build a 138-unit self-storage facility at 343 Island Pond Road.
ZBA members voted 4-1 to grant the variance.
The variance was approved subject to obtaining all required state and town permits and inspections; Planning Board approval; and establishing12 business hours and reducing lighting.
If approved, the self-storage facility would consist of 138 units in four buildings on an approximately 3-acre lot at 343 Island Pond Road. In addition, it would have an office for an on-site manager at the property, according to officials.
For many years, an automotive related business, the Russell Dickey Motor Service, operated on the property that is zoned low density residential. Old equipment and vehicles that were left on the property accumulated. An environmental cleanup of the property was later conducted, according to officials.
To gain approval, the applicant had to demonstrate that granting the variance met certain criteria necessary for approval, including meeting the spirit and intent of the low density residential zoning. In addition, Allen needed to demonstrate that a hardship existed.
During the meeting, several abutters went to the microphone to oppose the variance.
Abutters Neil and Gail Hitter said they have lived in the same house for 34 years. If approved, the self-storage business would be located directly across from them. They opposed granting the variance because they said the business didn’t meet the spirit and intent of the low density residential zoning. The self-storage business represents a large commercial operation that doesn’t fit with the zoning, Neil Hitter said.
In addition, Neil Hitter said he didn’t believe that Allen had demonstrated that a hardship existed by not granting the variance. Even though it wouldn’t be as profitable, Hitter said a house could still be built on the property and sold.
If the variance was granted and the business approved, Gail Hitter said the it would increase traffic and cause light pollution.
She said Island Pond Road is already busy enough. Returning from work, she sometimes has to wait for eight to 10 cars to pass before she can turn into her driveway.
“The traffic on that road and the speed is an issue,” Gail Hitter said. “And I think that should be taken into consideration for a business like this.”
Several other abutters also voiced opposition to granting the variance, saying the proposed business didn’t fit into the neighborhood and that it would cause light pollution.
In response to the abutters, Campbell was given an opportunity to speak.
As for whether a hardship is present, Campbell proposed applying the current zoning and determining “can it be used for what it is zoned for?”
Campbell said under the current zoning the house would have to be on a three-acre estate and wouldn’t fit.
“The fact is where this house sits and with its history it simply doesn’t fit to be a three-acre estate house in this location with the traffic we’ve already heard about and with the uses that are clearly visible in the aerial photos,” Campbell said.
He added, “It has to do with the character of the neighborhood.”
Campbell said Island Pond Road has an extremely mixed character and is not a three-acre estate subdivision area to fit with the low residential zoning.
“We believe that there are special circumstances of this property that make it not feasible, not reasonable,” Campbell said.
ZBA members who voted for the variance said it had met all of the criteria necessary for approval.
ZBA member Heather Evans, who cast the lone vote against granting the variance, said she believed it didn’t meet the character of the neighborhood.
“The variance I believe is contrary to the public interest with regard to change to the character of the neighborhood,” Evans said.
Conditions were added to require 12 business hours of operation and to reduce lighting.