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Five-inch variance granted by ZBA

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KENT—The Zoning Board of Appeals quickly decided at its Dec. 11 meeting that an honest error had been made and granted Steven and Jill Larsen of Fuller Mountain Road five more inches variance on the front setback for their garage.

Jill Porter Larsen explained to board members that she had appeared years ago seeking a setback of 25 feet from their property line because a garage they wanted to build could not be placed anywhere else on their sloping lot.

“We wanted relief from the 40-foot setback because there was really only one place for our garage,” she said. 

The variance was granted but the couple did not put up the structure until this summer. When an “as built” inspection was done, however, it was revealed that the roof overhang exceeded the setback line by 5.7 inches.

“We built the garage, but because our property line is somewhat irregular, our garage is not compliant,” she revealed.

She said the garage was placed where it had been planned and was no larger than it had been represented to the ZBA years ago. “There’s no deviation if you look at the walls,” she said. “They are compliant, it is just the roof overhang.”

She said because the garage had to be placed at the front of their property, it had been designed with a low roof and a deep overhang to reduce its profile.

ZBA alternate Justin Potter asked how the discrepancy had even been detected and Larsen said it was revealed during the post-construction survey. Potter opined that the “five or so inches for the roof “seemed to be “within the margin of error.”

Member John Johnson said he was surprised that the setback regulation included the roof overhang and Land Use Officer Tai Kern said the regulations allow for a one-foot overhang. “This is two,” she said.

“The roof has a generous overhang, but the intent was to not have the garage overpower the view from the road,” Larsen, an architect, said.

Member Daniel Murray, who was present for the first decision, said he was sorry the board had not advised the applicants to build a cushion into their first request.

“I should have asked for more,” Larsen agreed, adding she didn’t want to appear “greedy.” 

Johnson said the mistake and request sounded “pretty straight forward,” but asked if there had been any real concerns when granting the original variance.

“This all goes back six years,” Murray said. “The property is narrow and hilly, and we looked at other possibilities and there were none. It’s not close to the house, it’s not convenient, but … it is still in harmony with the intent of the building ordinance.”

Potter termed it “a marginal and inconsequential error,” and Larson left the meeting with a new 24-and-a-half-foot variance.

In other business, Chairman Anne Bisenius agreed to hold that position for another year and Murray will continue as vice-chairman.

Nicholas Downes, who recently lost his seat in the municipal election, has agreed to fill a vacant alternate’s slot and the Board of Selectmen will be asked to reappoint him to the board.

Bisenius “enthusiastically approved” of his nomination and pronounced herself “delighted” that the veteran ZBA member would return.

Kathryn Boughton
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