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PZC okays application for change of boarding house designation

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KENT—The Planning and Zoning Commission approved one application and invited submission of another when it met March 13. Both projects required interpretation of the zoning regulations to determine if they could be approved.

The Victorian at 81 North Main St. has been designated as a bed-and-breakfast by the Planning and Zoning Commission. It was previously classified as a boarding house. Photo by Kathryn Boughton

The first was submitted by John McPhee, owner of The Victorian, 81 North Main St., seeking a change of use to a bed-and-breakfast for the 1890-vintage structure. It had previously been listed as a boarding house.

McPhee said there are two separate building on the parcel, the rear one having eight units that are rented to persons working in the town and the front one, which, under the boarding house regulation, could only accommodate six persons at one time. By changing the designation to a B & B, it can welcome more guests.

The application does not affect the rear structure. 

McPhee purchased the structure a little over two years ago and renovated it. “At different times, it has operated under different zoning ordinances,” he told the commission members. He said it had been designated as a boarding house because a hotel was not allowed in that zone.

He said a “cottage” is attached to the building by a breezeway and will be used for a full-time manager on the premises.

The application referred to “condos” on the property and the commission members were confused by the nomenclature. McPhee said The Victorian could be considered a single-unit condominium operated as a B & B.

The main question centered on whether McPhee would have live on the property. The regulation for B & Bs says they should be single-family dwellings and owner-occupied. “The issue is owner vs. manager,” said PZC Chairman Wesley Wyrick.

Land Use Administrator Tai Kern said she sought legal counsel and was told that the manager constitutes “owner representation.” 

Member Darrell Cherniske said the commission would set a precedent if it allowed an employee to represent the owner, but Karen Casey noted that a previous owner had asked permission to live off-premises. “We granted him permission,” she said. “I thought that was already established.”

“Why in heaven’s name would we be hung up on that if it was allowed as a boarding house. In my opinion, it seems most fair that we should allow [it] for a B & B. They’re almost identical uses.”

Wyrick said the decision would be “very site specific.”

“The employee is there, six feet from the house,” McPhee said. “There’s not much going on we don’t know about.”

Member Anne McAndrew asked about holding special events at the site. McPhee said there have been some birthday parties, but all inside the house. “If they book the entire house, we have a specific agreement [for events]. We have had zero issues.”

Wyrick addressed the issue of parking and said he had counted 31 spaces which, to him, appeared adequate. Kern said the clarification that the cottage would be considered part of The Victorian remedied any need for additional parking.”

“The landscaping is nicely done right now,” said Wyrick. “There is off-street parking. I don’t think there are any neighborhood compatibility issues. There doesn’t seem to be any nuisance issues. They’ve addressed the issues about parties with their own regulation in place. We just have to make sure the Sewer Commission doesn’t have any issues.”

The Sewer Commission will not approve the plan without a lot line revision. The PZC approved the application with only that condition.

Kent School representative John Bergin appeared for a pre-application discussion about a site plan change to allow construction of a triplex structure on the school’s campus.

The original plan, which allowed up to six individual houses to be constructed, was approved in 2020. Since then, two buildings have been erected. “We want to build the triplex in lieu of another three houses,” he said, citing a pressing need for faculty housing.

Kern said, “traditionally, three-family structures are not allowed, but then 20 houses are not allowed on a single lot, either. That’s how I rationalize it.”

Several commissioners liked the idea of massing the residences to retain more open space.

Jeff Cataldo, associate head of school, said, “The 20 homes we have built are already established, approved and working well for the town. This ‘village’ is critical to the school. It is part of the campus and will be maintained as part of the school. This will very much look like a colonial home of 3,200- or 3,300-square-feet that you would see in any neighborhood.”

Kern noted that a condition of the original permit dictates that the housing cannot be separated from the school and sold. “It will never be allowed to stand alone and that provides protection for the town.”

The commission made quick work of approving two other applications, one for an inground swimming pool on Andreas Bocker’s 41 Jennings Rd. property, and a 16-by-16-foot enclosed pavilion on Alison Kuharski ‘s property at the  corner of Route 321and Cobble Road. 

Kathryn Boughton
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