2012-03-01 / Front Page

Providence Avenue will stay put

Surveying mistake leads to pair of property owners giving land back to town
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

A neighbor complained his house would end up looking “putrid,” but the Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday night granted a dimensional variance to Jeffrey and Brenna Jordan.

The couple wants to add a second story with a gambrel roof to their property at 32 East Shore Road. According to their attorney, John Murphy, the remodeling will add two upstairs bedrooms for the family’s two teenage sons. The owners needed a variance because they had only a 7-foot setback from the north property line and the zoning requires 10 feet.

The board voted 4-1 to grant the variance, with restrictions, that require the property owners to follow the approved site and building plans, and not change the house footprint. The new addition must not add more than 3 feet to the height of the home and no “surplus rooms” can be built.

Moreover, the owners must improve water drainage on the lot by installing rain water reclamation cisterns and other “green” features. Also, they cannot change the “ingress and egress” to the property.

Thomas Ginnerty, chairman of the Zoning Board, cast the opposing vote. He said that the board normally grants relief to allow owners to add a second floor “to an existing house,” but the Jordans’ house is an unusual case because the footprint already includes a variance, which allowed previous owners to convert a garage into living space. These applicants don’t actually live in the house. “It’s a recreational property,” Ginnerty said.

Two neighbors supported the variance, but a third neighbor, John Bolger of North Chelmsford, Mass., objected to the Jordans’ remodeling plans. Bolger complained that the property had received zoning relief in the past, such that a former garage was incorporated into the house, changed into a bedroom and then used to establish the property as a threebedroom house. His tenant, Peter Anderson, also spoke and objected. Anderson said the addition would block sunlight and result in higher electric bills.

In other business, the panel granted a variance to build an attached garage and “great room” at 86 Reservoir Circle. Robert Zimmerman said he and his wife wanted the addition because they are planning for retirement.

Finally, it was complicated, but the section of Providence Avenue near East Shore Road will stay in its familiar location, despite a surveying mistake. Also, two abutting property owners will abandon some square footage because, as one of the landowners put it, giving up some land was easier than moving the road to correct a discrepancy between the paper map and the road’s actual geographical location.

The decades-old mistake in the construction of Providence Avenue came before the Zoning Board, even though the issue was somewhat “academic,” attorney Mark Liberati said. Jamestown already owns the road.

“It becomes a public road by virtue of public use,” he said. “It all boils down to trying to make the public record reflect the reality on the ground. No one has respected the survey lines for 100 years.” The correction does remove a cloud on the real estate title and makes the properties more marketable, he told the panel.

Jamestown’s local government officials had been notified earlier, but decided moving the road was not an option due to the construction costs.

Liberati also asked the Zoning Board to grant a dimensional variance on the lot at 1106 East Shore Road. The owner, Robert Sherman, had agreed to deed land under the paper road back to Jamestown and effectively move a section of Providence Avenue off his property, but the reduction would make his lot smaller than the minimum required lot size.

Martha Neale also agreed to deed back part of her land to the town. She inherited the property from her mother and had always believed her land ended at the right of way. Last summer, however, a neighbor, Paul Sullivan, alerted her to the issues about the paper road.

Sullivan ultimately gained square footage in the deal, but he acquired a pie-shaped section of land he had always thought he had owned.

The Town Council and the Planning Department had already given conditional approval for the abandonments, pending the Zoning Board of Review’s action. The board approved the dimensional variance by unanimous vote.

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