HAMPSTEAD – Geoffrey Dowd, vice chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), came before the Board of Selectmen on Monday night to speak as a resident and warned the selectmen that the recent ZBA decision in the Michael and Dawn Bonfanti case (see story page 7) sets a dangerous precedent.
Dowd is concerned about the ZBA decision in the rehearing of the Bonfanti case, which approved a 20-foot by 22-foot garage on a 50-foot-wide lot. The town’s Zoning Ordinance calls for 30-foot lotline setbacks.
Dowd said the ZBA members didn’t articulate the hardship. He pointed out that there was already reasonable use of the lot because it had a shed, parking, septic and well on it. And Dowd expressed the concern that when members grant a variance based on the applicant having “put a lot of work” into satisfying the board, it poses a risk as there are similar lots in town, and their owners could request placing a similar garage or a house on them.
Dowd said he could see no special conditions on the Bonfanti lot that provide a hardship that would have permitted the garage. And he said that as the ZBA had approved this use when reasonable use of the lot already existed, it would be difficult to deny a request for a similar lot that has no reasonable use.
He called the decision “a dangerous precedent.”
He also pointed out that the ZBA vote ignored the abutters’ claim of property value diminishment because of view obstruction.
“This decision is dangerous from a legal standpoint,” he said. “I am concerned about its impact in the future because it has put us on a slippery slope.”
The selectmen asked what he wanted them to do and Dowd said the best choice would see the selectmen sue the ZBA over the decision. Realistically, however, he wanted them to look at the decision and consider their options.
Selectman Chairman Sean Murphy said the board would take his comments under advisement and research the matter.
In other business Monday night:
• Resident David Longshore told the selectmen he was disturbed about the Police Department and said it is too big for the size of Hampstead and its budget is too high. He also said the department fails to make clear to residents what it does by not including detailed information in the Town Report. He asked for the department to share more information.
• The board unanimously re-appointed Fire Department Chief Michael Carrier to another three-year term.
• The board instructed Road Agent Jon Worthen to patch the Town Garage roof for now, and said the board would consider whether to replace the roof or add a rubber membrane during the upcoming budget session.
• The board asked that the cost of demolishing and creating a comfort station at the old police building site and the cost of refitting the building into a comfort station be explored. Selectmen said that would be the best use of the building at this time. If Animal Control is to remain in the building, some repairs will have to be made and that would be an additional cost that was not part of the decision to allow the Animal Control use of the building.
• The board decided to hold a July work session to develop the job description for a full-time appointed road agent that will be in place as of March 2016.
• Al Cipriano, new Library Trustee was introduced to the board by Trustee Emily Reschberger.
• The board decided to fix the window in the meeting room and discuss whether to replace other windows in Town Hall.