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ZBA delays action on request for shared access to rear lot

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KENT—The Zoning Board of Appeals delayed action on an application from Homer Jennings of 186 Bulls Bridge Road to waive specific words in two sections of the zoning regulations governing access to properties. The wording changes would allow him and his son, Chris, to share a driveway to a lot where the younger Jennings hopes to build a home.

The Jennings wish to convey the rear two-acre lot of their property to their son and his wife. The Jennings home lot is already nonconforming making a second cut to the landlocked rear property impossible. The Jennings have owned the rear lot since 1995 and have never developed it other than to build a shed for firewood.

They were represented by planner Janell Mullen. “If the existing regulations are applied the rear lot cannot be used for any reasonable purpose,” Mullen said, adding that this created a hardship. She said neighbors have been granted the same privilege. Mullen noted that lots in this section of town tend to be small.

Neighboring property owners had been made aware of the application and one wrote a letter in support of it. 

ZBA member Dan Schiesel asked why the Jennings don’t remove the lot line and treat the new house as an auxiliary building. Kent has no limitations on the size of auxiliary dwellings.

Mullen said that the owners want to preserve their ability to sell one or the other of the lots separately in the future. “They are looking to the long-term use of the property,” she said. 

Schiesel said that extending the drive into the second lot would make the properties more non-conforming but Mullen argued that shared access would not diminish the size of the front, nonconforming parcel. ZBA Chairman Anne Bisenius commented, however, that the Jennings’ drive is already encroaching on the required setback from their  property line.

Mullen said the rear lot could accommodate the new building and that there is enough room for a well and septic system.

ZBA members inquired how a landlocked parcel had been created. Member Steve Pener said that in 1995 the Newton family had sold the parcel as a “first cut” and later created a third. The Jennings family had anticipated that their property would be connected to a road if a subdivision was created, but that the road was brought in from another direction.

The Jennings lot never went before Planning and Zoning and Homer Jennings said he had received verbal permission from the then-PZC chairman to put the shed on it. In fact, he placed the shed too close to the property line and it, too, is nonconforming.

Mullen argued that there was no enforcement action taken within three years of its construction and it is now grandfathered.

The board chewed for a while on the intricacies of the situation, how many variances would have to be granted and whether it is even proper for the application to come before the ZBA as combining the lots would rectify many of the difficulties.

They kept the issue open until their next meeting.

Kathryn Boughton
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