By Mary Macedo, Neighb News Correspondent
The Fairhaven Zoning Board of Appeals met on Wednesday, 4/12, to decide on six petitions including the Oxford School Residences.
The Oxford proposal, by Stratford Capital Group, would transform the Oxford School into senior housing units. Keith McDonald, Vice President of SCG, presented the board with the traffic study and other changes to the parking lot that had been discussed at previous meetings.
The board reviewed the traffic study, plans and changes to the building and parking lot. Board members said they felt their concerns had been addressed.
Resident and North Fairhaven Improvement Association member John Medeiros expressed some concerns about the project, including the size of parking lot. He reiterated his contention that the planned occupancy of the building is too high for the number of parking spaces.
The plan includes 63 units in the building with one to two people living in each unit; the parking lot will have 73 spaces.
Mr. Medeiros said he also believed ambulances and fire trucks would have trouble navigating the lot.
Board member Francis Cox noted that the area was able to handle more than 100 cars on parent-teacher nights when the building was a school.
Mr. Medeiros said he just wanted to “let the public be aware.”
“It’s a great asset for the town,” board member Ruy DaSilva said, adding that it will be great for seniors 62 and over. “Better than having an abandoned school.”
The board voted to close the hearing and will discuss conditions at its next meeting on 5/4.
Contractor Matthew Brodo petitioned for a variance to build a 20×55 garage at 141 Dogwood Street for owner Robert Moulding.
Melissa Arrighi, standing in for Mr. Brodo, explained that Mr. Moulding wants a garage to store his camper, car and other items he currently keeps in a shed and in the yard. By building the garage it will make the yard less cluttered.
Ms. Arrighi told the board that many of the neighbors support the garage being built and think that it will add value to the neighborhood.
When ZBA Chairperson Peter DeTerra asked the public if anyone wanted to speak in favor of the petition, a lot of hands went up to support. The banquet room at the Town Hall was packed with people, with 15-20 neighbors there to support Mr. Moulding.
“I would like to see him get this variance,” neighbor Lisa Esten said. “It will help to get rid of other things outside.”
Many neighbors agreed it will help unclutter the yard.
“It will enhance the neighborhood and eliminate things in the yard,” Joseph Oliveira said.
The neighbors attended to support the petition because they felt that Mr. Moulding was a great neighbor and a friendly, helpful person.
“He is a wonderful person and helps everyone in the neighborhood,” said neighbor and Board of Public Works chairperson, Michael Ristuccia Sr.
The motion passed unanimously.
In another matter, Michael Ristuccia of 52 Cedar Street sought a variance to build a 36×30 garage with an apartment on top, next to his single family home. Mr. Ristuccia was represented by his father, BPW chairperson Michael Ristuccia Sr., who showed the board pictures of the lot and how the garage would fit into the neighborhood. He argued that the garage would not increase the density in the neighborhood because the buildings are already close to each other in the center of town.
He said the garage would met the setback requirements, and noted that some of the houses in that area do not meet the zoning requirements.
The variances are for being short 45 feet of the 100′ required on frontage and short 8,979 square feet short of the 15,000 sf on the lot.
Some neighbors supported the petition, and some did not.
Neighbor Maria Moitoso stated that she was in favor of the petition.
“It would add value to the home, which would add value to the town,” Amanda Boardman said.
Mary Jane Richard spoke against the petition, saying that the neighborhood was congested enough. She said that they should not stick another building in between houses that were already close to each other.
“It will bring the property value of my home down,” neighbor Barbara Timmons said, adding that the main problem she had was how tall the garage will be. And with the apartment on top of it, she was concerned about her privacy.
Board member Peg Cook asked Mr. Ristuccia if there was a reason that they wanted to have an apartment on top of the garage.
He explained that they were going to have his mother-in-law live in the apartment, but she has recently been in the hospital. He said he was not sure she would able to live up there on her own. It is possible that she may continue to live with him and his wife, which means the apartment on top of the garage may no longer be necessary.
Mr. Ristuccia asked the board if they could continue the petition so that he can speak with more of the neighbors about their concerns, and to decide whether or not the apartment on top of the garage is necessary.
He said that if they decide not to build the apartment, they will not need a variance from the ZBA.
A motion to continue the hearing passed unanimously.
In another matter, Ralph Willette of Winona Avenue asked for a variance to build a single family dwelling on a an undersized lot he has owned for 35 years. Mr. Willette told the board that the lot has enough high ground to build on and a great view of the water.
Mr. DeTerra explained that the frontage for the lot is sufficient, but the square footage is short.
The board also questioned if the lot was “grandfathered,” meaning he is eligible to build on it even though it is too small.
The board asked Mr. Willette to get documentation on the ownership history of the lot and its size. The board voted to continue the hearing.
Jill Manzone, 60 Washington Street, petitioned the board for a special permit to have chickens, and a variance for the chicken coop.
Ms. Manzone explained that she currently has two chickens for eggs, but said she also likes to have them because she finds them comforting. She said that she has always been a “country girl” who grew up around livestock.
Ms. Manzone told the board that she has had the chickens at her Fairhaven home for nine months and she had no idea that a permit was needed. When she found out she needed a permit, she immediately started the process of obtaining one.
Mr. DeTerra voiced a lot of concern with the chickens because there is a restaurant right alongside Ms. Manzone’s house. Mr. DeTerra explained that even if it is a clean coop there is still some odor. With a restaurant right next door, cleanliness is a huge concern for him.
He is also on the Board of Health.
Neighbor Caroline Marcoux said that she was in favor of Ms. Manzone keeping her chickens. Ms. Marcoux said she has visited the home and the chickens are kept very clean.
“There is no mess and no noise,” Ms. Marcoux said. “They are well taken care of and it hurts no one on the street.”
On the other side of the issue, neighbor Elizabeth Boardman said that she was against the petition. She said she does not like to get into the business of other neighbors, but said she has many concerns about the chickens.
She said the coop is too small, and that she is concerned about the disposal of the chicken waste, as well as the smell so close to the restaurant.
Amanda Boardman also expressed concern about the well-being of the chickens in the small coop.
Mr. DeTerra said that the restaurant was his biggest concern because of the smell and the waste.
“The center of Fairhaven is not a place for animals,” Mr. DeTerra said.
“We have had them all this time and no one complained,” said Ms. Manzone, adding that the chicken waste is immediately picked up and taken to a waste station.
Mr. DeTerra explained the process: First the ZBA must vote on a special permit for the chickens and then vote on the variance for the coop; after the ZBA votes, the Board of Health must also approve the chickens.
Ms. Manzone explained that all she wants is the two chickens she currently has. She said she will not get more and once these chickens live out their lifespan she will not buy more.
The board approved the special permit with Joseph Borelli voting “no.”
The board did not vote on the variance for the coop. The board wants a written plan. The hearing was continued to the next meeting.
The board also voted to allow Catherine Zelano of 3 Ellis Place to withdraw her petition for a variance to build a house.
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