2010-11-04 / News

Zoning Board rejects in-law apartment, approves chicken coop

By Geoff Campbell

The first of two matters brought before the Jamestown Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday, was a dimensional variance sought by Henry and Mary Tarbox.

The Tarboxes proposed a 628- square-foot one-bedroom apartment, which would be added onto their existing structure at 28 Clark St. and would turn their home into a residential duplex.

When giving testimony to the board, Henry Tarbox said that the additional space would first be home to his mother, and as the next generation moved into the original home, Henry and Mary would move into the proposed addition.

According to Tarbox, this would allow the 30-year Jamestown residents to stay in Jamestown.

Documents prepared in advance of the public hearing by the Tarbox’s attorney, John Murphy, indicated that the 11,427- squarefoot lot did not meet the current requirement of 15,000 square feet, which is necessary for building a duplex.

In opening remarks, Murphy pointed out that until the change in the town-zoning ordinance that reinstated the minimum of 15,000 square-foot lot for the construction of a duplex on March 1, a variance would not have been required.

According to Zoning Officer Fred Brown, the two-month window that existed in which no special requirements were listed was a clerical error.

Brown said following a new publication of zoning ordinances on Sept. 22, 2009, a table was printed and published with “no heading, for duplexes, or multiuse buildings,” thus giving the impression that the 15,000 square-foot minimum had been dropped.

The Town Council became aware of what Zoning Board member Richard Allphin referred to as a “glitch,” at the beginning of December 2009. According to Brown, at the time that the glitch was reported, the Town Council placed a moratorium on building permits until the “proper notifi- cations could be made, meetings held and the regulations reinstated.”

When asked by Zoning Board Chair Tomas Ginnerty why they wanted to build a duplex opposed to simply constructing an addition to the home, Tarbox said that privacy was the issue.

In addition, Murphy made the following points in favor of granting the variance:

• Total building area after construction of the proposed addition will occupy less than 17 percent of the lot

• The variance is consistent with the tenor of affordable housing principles recently incorporated into the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan and zoning ordinances

• The proposed use is in keeping with uses throughout the R8 zoning district

• No variance is required for the addition if it does not include a stove

The Zoning Board voted 3-2 against the Tarbox family. Ginnerty, Allphin and Richard Cribb were the three members to reject the variance by citing the potential commercial use of the addition if it were zoned as a duplex. Ginnerty stated that “profit could be the result of the relief,” which is not a reason to grant the required dimensional variance. Additionally, those opposed noted that the proposed use could be achieved without duplex status.

Both Richard Boren and Dean Wagner, in comments supporting their affirmative votes, noted that there were no objections raised by neighbors, duplexes already exist on the street, total lot usage is less than 17 percent of the lot size, granting the variance is supportive of the spirit of the changes made to the JCCP and duplexes are a permitted use in R8 zoning districts.

The distinguishing feature of a kitchen is a stove, and the Tarboxes are “legally entitled to build an addition without a kitchen,” Murphy said.

“It is still going to get built,” Henry Tarbox said following the decision. “Just without a stove … it’s for retirement. We’ll put in a microwave.”

Next up on the docket was Glenn and Numi Mitchell’s application for a special-use permit to raise chickens on their 67 Howland Ave. property, which is less than the acre required to raise livestock or poultry.

The Mitchells have been raising chickens as pets and harvesting their eggs for five years. The chickens have been housed in a four-by-three foot portable coop, according to documents prepared by the Mitchells in advance of the meeting.

In testimony given before the board, Boren asked the Mitchells how they learned that they were not in compliance with town ordinances. Glenn responded, “We got a letter from Zoning Officer Fred Brown.”

Neighboring property owners, including Mike Mello, came forward in support of granting the special-use permit. Citing the educational value and the opportunity to learn responsibility, Mello described the chickens as a kind of learning laboratory for neighborhood and visiting children.

Failing to call for neighbors in opposition to the proposed permit, the board appeared surprised when Allan Barnes, an attorney representing Elliot and Denise Brown, asked to make a presentation in opposition.

The main concerns of the Browns were the storage of chicken manure and the potential interference that free-range chick- ens might have on their property. Barnes proposed five restrictions to the special-use permit.

• The current coop and the proposed coop remain where they are on the property

• The number of chickens housed in the coops can be no higher than seven at any one time

• Chickens are placed in their coop between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

• No storage of chicken manure occurs within 20 feet of the property line

• That a four-foot poultry fence be placed between the yards around a boulder in the current fence line

The ensuing cacophony of voices, all speaking in response to the list of proposed restrictions, led to stenographer Brenda Hanna’s reminding the crowd that there can’t be “too many people talking at the same time.”

Order was restored and the board asked Glenn Mitchell when he had learned of Brown’s opposition to the proposed permit. “Just before the meeting,” Mitchell said.

Numi Mitchell voiced concern that the curfew restriction was “inhumane” and she noted that the chickens would be “all cooped up for 12 hours.” She explained that chickens follow a natural light cycle.

The proposed restriction was amended by the board to be “approximately dusk to dawn.”

The special-use permit was granted based on the following conditions and restrictions:

• No more than 10 hens would be housed on the property at anyone time

• No roosters will be housed on the property

• A fence will be placed around the boulder on the property line

• No slaughtering of the chickens will be permitted

• Chickens will be in the coops from approximately dusk to dawn

• No storage of chicken manure will occur within 20 feet of the property line

The special-use permit is granted for one year and the Mitchells will appear before the board in a year’s time for review and potential renewal of the permit.

No commercial activity will result from the special-use permit .

Return to top