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7 December 2005 | Approved: 1 February 2006

The Planning Commission held its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, December 7. Chairman John McClelland convened the meeting at 7:40 pm. Commission members in attendance were Darryl Anderson, Margaret Ebner, and Robert Evans.

Approval of Minutes

There being no minutes for the November meeting, the Commission proceeded to the rest of its agenda.

407 Acorn lot coverage review

The Commission considered again the issue of the lot coverage of the expanded structure built at 407 Acorn Lane. Chairman McClelland reported he had talked to the owners regarding their claim to own a portion of Johnson Alley. Their deed says their lot is bounded by "the margins of Johnson Alley." However, county tax records indicate that the owners have been paying taxes on 9037 square feet. A 1991 lot survey reflects a square footage of 9902 square feet; however, if two "abandoned" strips adjacent to the principal lot, which comprise 865 square feet, are deducted from this total, one gets a net figure of 9037 square feet, including the contested Johnson Alley area. The inclusion of the Johnson Alley footage is critical in judging whether the new structure exceeds the lot coverage limit or falls within it. The Town Council has taken a position that the Alley property should nonetheless be considered Town, not the owners’, property, and that the owners should bear the burden of proof to establish otherwise.

A question was raised as to how far back records indicate that Johnson Alley had been used as a street. Town resident and former Planning Commission member Irene Carrato reported that it is shown as a street at this location on the original Town plat. Mr. Evans said he did not think it unreasonable to assume the tax records might be in error, and that the language of the deed to the property, as well as the assumption the Town would not have built and maintained a road on private property all these years without basis (and without apparent protest from any owners) suggested the position taken by the Town Council was sensible. Mr. Anderson said that the Council had received the advice of the Town’s attorney to this effect.

It was the consensus of the Commission that Johnson Alley is Town property and cannot be counted in calculating lot size for the purpose of determining lot coverage, and as a result the structure now exceeds the permissible lot coverage limits. The Planning Commission believes it is the Town Council’s responsibility to determine what action may be appropriate under the circumstances.

414 Brown Street

Ken Ward appeared to seek permission to rebuild and alter the path of an existing fence on his property. There is no existing plat survey of the property available. Mr. Ward presented the only plat he has found for the property and marked it to indicate the changes he would like to make.

The Commission determined that the fence was replacing an existing fence in the places closest to the property line, that it was to be 4 feet in height at all places except a small 6-foot section well within the lot setback requirements, that the fence would face public property (Brown Street) in all relevant parts, that the plat presented by Mr. Ward was the only available existing plat of the property, and that from that plat it was apparent the fence would be set back the required footage from the property line and would not violate the Town’s fence height ordinance requirements in Section 3.328. Therefore, on a motion by Mr. Evans, the Commission unanimously approved the permit application.

404 Fifth Avenue

Irene Carrato appeared to seek approval to replace an existing fence with one which would be of no greater height than the current fence and in some parts lower than the current fence. The Commission reviewed the application and attached plat survey and concluded that the fence complied with Article 7, Section 9 and Section 3.328 requirements. On motion of Chairman McClelland, the Commission unanimously approved the application.

102 Ridge Road

Joan Mahaffey and her architect, Ralph Hurst, appeared to present preliminary plans for additions to her house: a proposed one-story addition along the Brown Street side and a two-story sleeping porch addition on the Cherry Avenue side. The Commission reviewed the plat survey and said it appeared to present no issues with respect to setback requirements, height limitations, or lot coverage limits. A formal application for the permit will be submitted shortly by the owner; no action was taken.

125 Grove Avenue

Homeowner Renee Chandler and her contractor, Michael Fornatora, appeared to discuss an application for a permit to build a one-story addition to her house where there is an existing porch and over a foundation which formerly supported a greenhouse. The Commission did not find problems with the height-less than 18 feet-or the lot coverage requirement. However, the existing side setback for the porch and foundation is only 9’7", or 5" less than the required 10 feet. While the porch is clearly an "existing structure" which could be replaced with the same nonconformity, the greenhouse was torn down two years ago. After further discussion, the owner agreed to pull the side of the new addition further in so it will not violate the 10-feet requirement and will submit new plans.

Municipal infractions/grandfathering

Chairman McClelland reported on the December 5 public hearing at which proposals for a new municipal infractions ordinance and accompanying implementation resolution (in the form of 2 options) were unveiled. Option #2, for "full" grandfathering , would give all current nonconforming uses amnesty into perpetuity. Option #1, for "partial" grandfathering, would identify certain existing nonconforming uses and provide a procedure by which owners could seek to have them grandfathered or for other relief; nonconforming uses not so identified would be given amnesty in perpetuity.

After considerable debate, the consensus of the Planning Commission was that the partial approach was preferable but asked that the Town Council and Town Attorney considered the consistency and adequacy of the standard suggested for deciding when a nonconforming use would be given amnesty (variously "hardship" and "material hardship" in the draft resolution).

Cator Property Annexation

A new proposal from the Cators for the annexation of their property into the Town was distributed. The Mayor has requested the Planning Commission’s reactions to it.

The Commission expressed concern that the proposal did not address a number of elements which would be critical in determining whether the ultimate use of the property would be acceptable to the Town, and which have been raised with the owners on prior occasions. Among these were: the proposal is unclear on whether a total of 4 houses or 5 houses (the existing house plus four new ones) was desired; the proposed layout of the houses on the lot is not shown; the access from the houses to the adjacent roadways is not shown; the issue of a setback from the railroad tracks is not addressed; and the need for the Town to review the proposed elevations of the houses is not addressed.

Bob Evans – Planning Commissioner

The meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.

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