Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment had their hands full during their July 19 meeting, which was mostly dedicated to the continuation of a case with the Nevins Retirement Cooperative Association (NRCA) on June 21.
Conflict arose between residents living within a community owned by the NRCA and the Conservation Commission, as there is currently a buffer extending into 22 homes in the community that serves to protect local wetlands. It prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on lawns within the buffer, only allowing wood ash and lime. Residents argued that the buffer should be encroached by half, since not being able to use proper fertilizers prevents them from keeping their lawns healthy.
Due to the fact that board members felt that they did not have enough information to accurately assess the situation, namely concerning the status of the buffer, the case was extended to July 19. During the latter meeting, residents of the community filled the town hall once again to voice their opinions and view the decision.
Representatives including Bob Shepard and Anthony Vialanti of the NRCA came before the board in defense of a variance for their situation. Vialanti noted that “[residents] were quite disturbed” over the buffer rules and the effect that it would have on their lawns, while Shepard asked, “How would a homeowner be able to find that?” in reference to discovering the existence of the buffer. Shepard felt that the residents should not have to suffer for this and are just looking to keep their lawns healthy.
Said residents also came before the board to defend their case, bringing to light a letter written by the NRCA’s Board of Directors, which noted that an issue like this cannot be allowed to fester and needs to be resolved soon. It was mentioned that a well-tended lawn would actually be beneficial to the purpose of the buffer, as healthier lawns absorb more nitrogen for the land. Resident Peter Woodberry showed the board a map that laid out the specific geography of the buffer.
Members of the Conservation Commission were also in attendance to defend the buffer. Commission Chair Marge Badois felt that there was “some confusion over what happened,” noting that the buffer was more of an easement than anything else. She said that they had originally spoken with the community’s landscaper, who had no problem agreeing with the rules. Member Mike Speltz also noted that the commission’s efforts to enforce the easement were just the rules that were established in the ordinance, and they were simply following them.
When it came time for the board to deliberate on the matter, opinions were mixed on the situation, with some members, including Suzanne Brunelle, feeling that residents of the community should have known about the buffer before they purchased their property.
Regardless, the variance was granted, with votes of approval from all but two members of the board, including Chairman Neil Dunn. NRCA residents will now be allowed to fertilize their lawns up to 25 feet away from their homes at the closest point of their home’s foundation. The ordinance will still not allow construction on any area affected by the buffer.