By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 11/7, the Fairhaven Zoning Board of Appeals continued yet again, the proposed eight-unit building project for the former site of Dan Good Auto Sales, 294 Huttleston Avenue, which burned down in 2006. The owners of the property, Robert and Judith Tubbs, have been trying to get permission to build a two-building eight-unit residential complex on the site. The petition has been before the ZBA at least three times since 8/1.
The proposal has been scaled back somewhat, but not enough to persuade neighbors, who have attended every meeting since it has been on the agenda.
The variances required for the project include short 70 feet of the 200 feet required frontage, short 72,233 sf of the required 100,000 sf, short 5’ of required 50-foot setback, short 42,233 sf of required 70,000 sf of contiguous upland, and 19% over maximum lot coverage.
Ms. Tubbs told the board that some of those numbers have changed, but without specific plans, the board was not accepting the assumption.
Tensions between the board and Town Planner and Economic Development Director Bill Roth also became obvious, with ZBA Chairperson Peter DeTerra asking in a raised voice if Mr. Roth was advocating for the Tubbses, or representing the town.
At issue is the disagreement between Mr. Roth and Building Inspector and enforcement agent Wayne Fostin over the interpretation of some of the rules.
The matter had been delayed for Town Counsel to give an opinion. Mr. Crotty said in a letter that the matter did belong in front of the ZBA and that the lot was not “grandfathered” in, or protected from some setback changes made by bylaws changes.
Mr. Roth said he was trying to clarify that there were several issues and Mr. Crotty was talking about one issue.
The property was rezoned by Town Meeting last year to multi-family residential, which has different setbacks from a commercial lot, causing more confusion.
“I’m representing myself and the town,” said Mr. Roth.
“It’s your personal opinion,” said Mr. DeTerra, noting that Mr. Fostin disagreed. “What’s going on here?”
Mr. Roth said that if the board did not allow the project due to the setbacks it would be the same as a “taking.”
Ms. Tubbs, for her part, again noted that if necessary, she would simply file a 40B project, which is a state law that allows a project to bypass zoning if the project is for low-income housing.
She said she would not have agreed to the zoning change if she knew it was going to make her lot unusable.
ZBA member Joseph Borelli said it was not unusable, it was just too small to put eight units on. He called the shortages “horrendous.”
There was also some discussion on whether or not the ZBA had the authority to vote on the density, setbacks, and other variances.
“But that’s what we vote on,” said ZBA member Peg Medeiros. “If it was in compliance, she wouldn’t need to come to us.”
After more back-and-forth and some input from neighbors opposed to the project, Mr Borelli made it clear he would still not vote to support the large variances.
The board continued the hearing until January to give Ms. Tubbs time to create more detailed plans and provide a clearer explanation of the changes.
“You’re going to give her false hopes,” said board member Kenneth Kendall.
In another matter the board voted to deny a petition by Lonnie Ulrich, 62 Farmfield Street for chickens. The variance is required for any livestock raising on a lot under five acres.
Mr. Ulrich and his wife already had two chickens and appeared in front of the board after-the-fact for the variance. The board decided the lot was too small and they will have to get rid of the chickens they have.
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