Frontage Variance Denied for Hampstead Road House

A local developer will need to find a different plan for land off Hampstead Road after the Zoning Board of Adjustment, in a split vote, denied a variance for the amount of frontage necessary.

Neil McCarthy, a staff member of Promised Land Surveying, appeared before the board at its Jan. 15 meeting to request the variance for his client, New Wave Diversified LLC. But several board members questioned the “hardship” condition of the variance, and also expressed concern about a proposed shared driveway, so the variance was denied.

The plan was to subdivide an existing lot at 154 Hampstead Road, leaving one lot at 3.59 acres but with a frontage of 54 feet.

McCarthy read the conditions for a variance, including:

• Not contrary to public interest. The single-family home is an allowable use in the LMDR (Low Medium Density Residential) zone, he said.

• The spirit of the ordinance will be preserved. The home is surrounded by other private residences.

• Substantial justice will be done by granting the variance. “This will allow my client to utilize the property to the fullest extent,” McCarthy said.

• Granting the variance will not diminish property values in the area. The project will be a new four-bedroom home, McCarthy said.

• Not granting the variance would result in “unnecessary hardship” because without the variance, the lot will not be used to its full potential, according to McCarthy.

Board chair Lynn Perkins asked Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mackey for his take on the project and Mackey said, “In the LMDR zone the required minimum lot is 2 acres with 150 feet of frontage.”

The proposed shared driveway would allow the residents of the new lot to access their home but would require an easement from the owners of the existing house lot, he said.

Perkins asked the board for their questions and concerns.

Vice-Chair Allan Virr asked how long the driveway would be. “It would have to be a considerable distance,” he said. He also expressed concern about traffic on Olesen Road. ‘It’s already heavy,” he said.

Virr added that there was nothing in the ordinance prohibiting shared driveways but that logistics such as maintenance would have to be worked out.

Board secretary Donald Burgess also asked about the composition of the driveway.

McCarthy said the mouth of the existing driveway is paved and that “We’re not sure at this point” what else is planned.

The length of the driveway is estimated at 150 feet, he said.

Virr asked about a traffic study and McCarthy said there hadn’t been a recent one. “We did one when the original plot was subdivided in 2005,” he said.

Member Heather Evans asked if there had been any restrictions with that original subdivision and McCarthy said there weren’t.

Evans also asked if the soils and well radius were adequate and McCarthy said the well radius was adequate and the soils were “153 percent of what is required.”

In the public comment portion of the meeting, abutter John Miley said the 54 feet of frontage could be a problem and the visibility would be poor. “Some of the snowbanks can be 4 or 5 feet or higher,” he pointed out. “And there is a major knoll hindering anyone pulling out.”

The current undivided lot has more than 150 feet of frontage, he said.

Sandown resident John Carvalho owns and rents out the property at 167 Hampstead Road and expressed concern about too many houses going in. “You are adding more houses where there shouldn’t be,” he said.

Carvalho owns other property in Derry, including one 6-acre lot, and said, “If I wanted to I could be before you tomorrow, subdividing that lot.”

Carvalho said he is against allowing people to build behind existing houses and criticized the builders as not caring. “Once he builds it he’s gone,” he said.

Carvalho added that the town’s philosophy should not be, “Let’s throw houses up in every location.”

Gregory Dunton of 160 Hampstead Road said he bought his house because of the privacy. “We fell in love with the land,” he said. “With this house in the works, we’ll see people driving by us every day.

“I just lost my dream house,” Dunton told the board.

Resident Ann Goodrich agreed, saying, “I moved here for the privacy and the lovely land behind my house. We have wonderful wildlife. I don’t want to look into somebody else’s backyard.”

Dunton and Carvalho were also concerned about what another house would do to their water. Dunton said his water pressure is already low. “I’m nervous,” he said, about what the occupants of a new house would do in the area of showers and laundry, which would pull from his water resources, he said.

Virr said he shared the concern about traffic. “Tonight I was on Hampstead Road and it was bumper to bumper,” he said.

In the board’s deliberations, member Teresa Hampton observed, “It’s difficult to determine between what’s here in front of us and what our emotions tell us.”

Perkins reminded the board that it has granted hardship variances in the past, but those were usually dividing the family homestead to provide housing for a family member.

“This is different,” he said. “It’s a purchase with the intent of hardship.”

Hampton referenced the “not in my backyard” syndrome and expressed empathy with both sides of the question.

But, she said, “I live on a lake. Every time someone builds on the lake, there are fewer and fewer eagles. It’s part of life. There’s no easy answer here.”

Virr argued that nothing could be done without a variance, and that “holding on to 3.59 acres of land and doing nothing with it creates a hardship.”

They crafted a motion with three conditions: that all state and local permits be applied for, that an updated soil test be filed with the Planning Board, and that a traffic study be completed.

Hampton and Virr voted in favor of the variance, with Virr saying he did so “reluctantly. Because of the acreage of the two parcels, the hardship is the frontage.”

Burgess, Evans and Perkins voted against it. “I don’t think we should allow 54 feet of frontage,” Burgess aid, while Perkins said he didn’t see the hardship.

The vote was 2-3 against the variance and the variance was denied.