Pillsbury Road Home Business Loses Vote on Special Exception Haley Paton Dufour

After an hour of discussion by the board, applicants and neighbors, the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) denied a request for a special exception to allow for a home antiques refinishing business at 173 Pillsbury Road. The motion to deny was 4-1.

The special exception was requested by homeowners Steven and Victoria Johnson. The Johnsons were seeking permission for Victoria to run a business out of their garage in response to a letter received from Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel regarding the furniture refinishing being done in the Johnsons’ driveway. They also stated that Victoria is a stay-at-home mother who refinishes antique furniture as a hobby, selling pieces periodically.

Zoning Board Chair Jim Smith made a point at the Wednesday, Oct. 19 meeting to remind those present that it was a special exception being sought, not a variance, explaining that if granted it would only be for the Johnsons while they lived at that address and would be terminated if they moved or discontinued the business.

Smith also made it clear that continuing to refinish furniture outdoors would be in violation of the exception, noting that it would be difficult to differentiate between what refinishing was being done for personal use, as a hobby, and what work was being done to be sold. Under an exception, all work in the driveway would have to stop.

Victoria responded that whether they received the exception or not, she would continue to refinish pieces of antique furniture for her own use.

Neighbors Donna Zannoni of 166 Pillsbury Road, Carlton Demers of 171 Pillsbury Road and Sonia Fortier of 1 Jake Road all raised opposition to the requested exception.

Issues raised by Zannoni, Demers, and Fortier included traffic from pickups and drop-offs of furniture on the busy road and refinishing chemicals and paints contaminating well water runoff, as well as the smell of spray paint, the noise of sanding and the sight of furniture and tarps in the driveway. Concern over lead paint was raised as well.

Fortier was especially upset about the noise and the smell.

“The noise is really awful,” Fortier said.

She also complained of smelling spray paint “all summer long,” saying the past season was “not a fun summer.”

Zannoni and Demers objected to the sight of the furniture refinishing, Zannoni saying that there is “tons of furniture in the driveway” and Demers calling it “a tent city.”

Demers also expressed strong doubt that the Johnsons would comply with the exception if it were granted.

“They have no intentions of moving inside,” Demers said, “so I really don’t think it should be permitted.

In response to the opposition to the smell of the spray paint and concern about the chemicals, Victoria said, “People use spray paint all the time,” adding that 50-60 percent of the paint is applied by hand using rollers or brushes. She said that she is also concerned about lead paint because of her young son, Will, 5, who often helps her, and only paints over existing paint on the antique furniture. Any sanding, she said, is only done to the wood to be varnished or stained.

“I don’t use anything that would go into my water system whatsoever,” Victoria said.

Smith expressed support for the request, saying, “Being inside would eliminate the issue in the driveway,” and that using the sander in the garage would “muffle the noise.”

The rest of the board did not support approving the request.

Although the neighbors complained of various issues, the issue that ultimately resulted in the board’s denial was concern over the use of chemicals and paints and their possible harmful effects on the community.

“I don’t feel comfortable with granting, only to find out about a problem later,” said board member Jacquline Benard.

The Johnsons said they plan to appeal.

In other business at last week’s meeting:

  • A request for a variance after the fact to allow for a 24- by 24-square-foot garage that extends 15 feet into the side setback at 36 Coteville Road was approved 5-0 after applicant Joe McCune apologized to the board for not first getting permission. The approval is subject to the building inspector’s approval and conformance to current building codes.

McCune explained that his employees offered to build the garage and he thought it was within the appropriate zone.

  • A request for a variance to construct a covered porch on the front of the house at 71 Alexander Road was granted to owners Ryan Hanson and Scott Sylvia. The house was built in 1931, which the board noted pre-dates zoning. According to the owners, the house had a porch at one time that they are seeking to replace. The variance was approved 5-0.
  • A request for a variance to the William Merrill Revocable Trust was approved 5-0 to permit a duplex with six bedrooms on a 52,272-square-foot lot at 1 Weymouth Road. The minimum lot size requirement is normally 60,000 square feet.

Project Manager Matt Peterson of Hillside Design Group, LLC appeared before the board representing the trust. The lot next door was previously granted a variance to build a similar unit. The board agreed with Peterson’s assertion that a similar unit on the same roadway would be beneficial.

  • A request for a variance to construct a garage 5 feet into the 15-foot side setback on 4 Matthew Drive was approved for owner David Nadeau. The house, built in 1990, currently has a split-level garage that the owner was seeking to change into a family room. Without the variance, due to the placement of the driveway and restriction of the septic system, the owner would need to excavate the yard and move the driveway to build the new garage.

The variance was granted 5-0 with the restriction that the encroachment into the setback not go beyond 5 feet.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter