WATERTOWN — The Zoning Board of Appeals, meeting Thursday, September 23, quickly moved through three Public Hearings, closed each of those hearings and approved the associated applications.
The board then spent considerable time discussing recent changes in the way minutes are recorded and on the discontinuation of printed meeting packets.
The first two Public Hearings of the evening were continuations from the previous meeting. In each case, members had decided last month that they needed to conduct a site walk to see the situation for themselves before making a decision. In both cases, the site walk helped them agree to approve the variances.
The third hearing, although a new application, was clear-cut enough for members to approve without a special site walk.
David Bendell was seeking a nine-foot variance from a side yard property line for the construction of a new driveway at 60 Rockdale Ave. in a BG-1 zone. His current driveway had been damaged by a storm a few years ago, he explained, and he also wanted the driveway to come up on the side of the house where he normally entered and exited.
The old driveway would be dug up and replaced with grass. The house was built in 1880, there is no other place for a driveway and the existing driveway is out of code, he said. Members agreed the new plan made sense and voted to approve.
John Nygren, the first applicant, was seeking a .51-acre variance from the five acres required for a farm in order to raise horses.
He explained his hardship was two-fold. When he purchased the property at 567 Sunnyside Ave., his deed read five acres. Apparently, the town had come through and improved the road, taking some of his land for safety improvements.
Unaware of this, he had been maintaining the property as his own since purchasing it. Members agreed the property was ideal for horses and approved the variance.
Richard Mikush, the second applicant, was seeking a 30-foot variance to a front property line in order to construct a 12x16-foot shed at 24 Ledgewood Rd.
He explained there was no other logical place for the shed and the hardship was that the parcel had three front yard property lines, due to its configuration and location as a corner lot. Members agreed after visiting the property and approved the variance.
Under review of bylaws, member Jeff Franson suggested two additions, one that would require the minutes to be written verbatim and the other to require material be provided to members at least five days ahead of time in the form of written packets. Those packets were to include all items such as maps and applications.
Land Use Administrator Mark Massoud explained the packets and verbatim minutes had been discontinued at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in order to provide some needed additional time for staff to concentrate on other tasks related to customer service. Both the packets and the verbatim minutes require a significant amount of time to prepare, he said.
After further discussion, the board and Mr. Massoud agreed on a compromise. Packets would be provided as requested, with new material only, and the minutes would include a summary of action, rather than verbatim minutes or motions only.