ZBA hears appeal, upholds planners' decision
August 05, 2009
The Zoning Board of Adjustment has upheld the Planning Board's decision to grant Gilford resident Steve Gleeson home occupation use at 150 Saltmarsh Pond Road, despite and an appeal made by Gleeson's neighbor, Ronny Bean.
Bean sent an application for an appeal and submitted a letter of disapproval to the board, based on the Planning Board's June 15 decision. Bean's letter to the ZBA included his proposed appeal, an application from Gleeson, a letter from the realtor, Planning Board minutes, and a letter from the town attorney.
The town attorney's letter stated that the prior owner to Gleeson's property, Albert Dolloff, had operated illegally on the property with his business, Dolloff Excavations, for about 12 years.
Bean, a neighbor of Gleeson's, told the board he made an appeal because Gilford's site work had become a disturbance to the neighborhood. Bean believed that Gleeson was not following all the rules the Planning Board gave him.
"I feel the Planning Board didn't do their research. We're not aware of what they approved of or not. His (Gleeson's) industrial use is not in accordance with home operation. It violates it," said Bean.
Bean argued that there was never a record of approval by the Planning Board in the 1980s on the basis of approving a home occupation for Dolloff, prior to their decision to allow Gleeson to work under a home occupation.
The board commented that technically, the property could be used for a home occupation under the category of construction.
Bean disagreed and attempted to prove that since the building had no record of permit use ever, or a prior home occupation for Dolloff, that the building could not be granted such approval now.
"If we are going to throw the ordinances of the town away, we might as well do that for everybody. It (Dolloff's exception) is not an excuse for the town to disobey ordinances," said Bean.
The board made a rebuttal with a bit of confusion, admitting that around 1986, Dolloff probably did not need approval to go ahead with certain aspects of his business concerning home occupation and perhaps documentation of a building permit.
Chair of the ZBA Andrew Howe explained that the Planning Board had once operated differently because of a different era, and later began to cover more operational standards.
"The evidence is that a permit wasn't required because they were not given out at this time, meaning there were not requirements then. You have to take a lack of information and deduce what you have," said Howe.
ZBA alternate member Connie Grant agreed that times and knowledge have changed.
"As we learn more, the zoning ordinances evolve over time. They were probably much smaller then," said Grant.
Bean handed out a list of reasons why he considered Gleeson not to be in accordance with home occupation, and in violation of the Planning Board's conditions. He explained to the board, as they looked over his observations, that Gleeson was expected to keep all his equipment behind the building and out of sight of neighbors, yet Bean claimed he spotted two trailers in the front of the building that appeared to be heavier and longer than the Planning Board's requirements.
If the equipment leaked fluid, it could go through the drains behind the building, said Bean, though the board added that a drain could come from a commercial building.
Bean also alleged that Gleeson had been stockpiling material, that his truck back-up alarms were disruptive, and that his 137 acres stood out compared to everyone else's 14 acres.
The town attorney had also touched on the subject of abandonment in his letter to the board, meaning Dolloff's property may not have been in accordance to sell. The board explained that the building's usage was still in accordance because it has been "grandfathered" for 23 years and was used by Dolloff's son Kevin Dolloff for a period of time as well.
ZBA member Scott Davis added that the town attorney's letter stated that it would be possible to establish operating in the late '80s and obtain a home occupation without a particular permit as long as the property did not offset the rest of the neighborhood and surrounding businesses.
No site plan approval for home occupation was required then, explained Davis.
Gleeson stood in front of the board as well to defend himself and his business against Bean's accusations.
"It became apparent to me of last Thursday that an appeal was being filed after going before the Planning Board in my process to purchase property," he said. "I filled out an application for Home Occupation. I am sole owner of Gilford Site Works and I did not lead on the Planning Board."
Gleeson explained that what Bean considered a generator was actually an air compressor, allowed on site as a contractor's tool. Gleeson noted the two trailers that Bean observed, and explained that one was a tag-along-trailer and the other a utility tractor that Gleeson said was a common purchase.
"My two trailers are parked out in the back. They may be considered out in the open but I do have a place on the property to store them properly," said Gleeson, who apologized and took fault for the trailers.
Gleeson added that these trailers were rarely on his property and were currently on a job site in Laconia.
He also addressed an underground storage tank and claimed only to own one above ground storage tank about 870 gallons and enclosed in a concrete container that he planned to move soon. He explained that the Gilford Fire Department had signed off on the tank, and that the tank was in compliance with the state regulations.
Although Bean alleged that Gleeson was using the property as a construction yard, which was not approved, Gleeson assured the board that his stockpile consisted of rocks he planned to landscape around his swimming pool and to stop a leakage from a drain.
At the Planning Committee hearing last month, Gleeson gave the board a list of his equipment and said that he did not own heavy machinery or dump trucks.
The ZBA told Bean and Gleeson that they would require more time in making their decision. Later that evening, the board voted to uphold the Planning Board's ruling.