In March, zoning administrator Craig Ohlson issued a permit to Brad and Colleen Palmiter for the construction of a single family house at 288 Old Mill Lane, the site of a former lakeside camp. The single-story camp was demolished more than two years earlier. Abutting property owner Heather Frost appealed Ohlson’s decision to the DRB. Chair Wendy Manners, a neighboring property owner, recused herself from the proceedings, leaving DRB member Fred Houston to conduct the hearing.
Frost argued that the proposed two-story, 1,600-square-foot residence was out of proportion and out of scale to other structures in the neighborhood, “towering over” nearby buildings. “It alters the character, aesthetics, and scenic value,” she said. “It’s disrespectful to the rural character of the area.”
Frost also said that the building would compromise their shared lake access, creating an “alleyway” she said was similar to a downtown area. “The proposed construction is more suitable for an urban setting,” Frost said.
Frost said her concerns regarding scale and aesthetics were criteria listed under section 222 of the zoning ordinance. Bob Fisher, attorney for the Palmiters, however, noted that section 222 applies only to conditional use permits. “The appellant raises issues relevant to a conditional use permit,” Fisher said. “A single-family dwelling is a permitted use in the residential district, not a conditional use. Her concerns would apply if it was conditional use, but don’t apply here with regard to this structure.”
The structure, as well as the structure it replaces, are considered nonconforming under the current zoning bylaw, due to the small lot size and required setbacks. Under the current bylaw, however, a structure can be altered, or even demolished and rebuilt, if it doesn’t increase the degree of nonconformity. Frost questioned whether the planned deck would increase the nonconformity.
Surveyor Ben Joyce testified that he established the size and location of the previous structure locating the existing foundation piers and interior dimensions from information in the listers’ office. Patrick Kitzmiller, of Austin Design, explained that he designed the house to fit within the zoning guidelines, while maximizing the utility for the owners.
According to Fisher, there had been an earlier application for a conditional use permit. However, when it became clear that the proposed construction would require multiple waivers from the DRB, the application was pulled.
“We shrank it several feet and brought the overhangs down to about six inches to keep within the original footprint,” Kitzmiller said. “As far as a view of a towering residence, the approach to the house is coming down a hill. In my opinion it will not look like it’s towering. Part of our process was to create something that wasn’t overwhelming, that still met the family’s needs. And I felt like we did that, and kept it within zoning.”
Houston asked whether the project met the zoning bylaw’s two-year time limit for rebuilding a nonconforming structure. Fisher noted that the zoning ordinance allows for extensions of the two-year time limit, and produced a request for an extension that had been submitted during the previous conditional use permit process. “The request was submitted before the two-year limit,” Fisher said, “but it was never acted upon.”
Fisher also submitted an explanatory timeline of events. DRB members closed the hearing. The DRB has up to 45 days to render a decision on the appeal.