A resident appeared at the July 18 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting seeking approval to construct a pool closer to her neighbor’s property line than town zoning allows. Holly Boorda of 60 Hunter Mill Way, was looking to locate the pool in an area that would encroach five feet into the required 15-foot buffer. Joining her at the hearing was Peter de Bernardo of Gibraltar Pools, the pool company she planned to use for the installation.
Boorda was looking to locate the 20 ft. x 32 ft. pool and surrounding structure in this part of her property because other restrictions kept her from putting it directly in her backyard. The pool itself would be 16 ft. x 24. ft. with a two ft. ledge on three sides and a 6 ft. deck on one side.
A major part of her backyard falls within the 150-foot buffer for a conservation area holding a heron nesting site that she said she did not know about until planning to install a pool.
The applicant argued that they were meeting all other setback requirements and that the same pool they are looking to install can be found at a few other homes in the neighborhood. de Bernardo added that most towns are concerned with how close the pool water is to the property boundary because they worry about water flow in a collapse of the pool.
Boorda contended that the pool would not negatively impact surrounding property values, that it would be in an open backyard and would not block light or air flow to neighbors. Given the 150-foot conservation buffer, she felt a 5-foot encroachment was a reasonable request and that there was no other place it would fit in her yard.
When ZBA Vice Chair Jacqueline Benard asked if anyone in the audience wanted to speak in support or opposition to the variance, Mark Borgatti of 58 Hunter Mill Way rose to speak against granting it.
Borgatti is the property owner where the pool would extend in the buffer along his property line. If granted, the variance would allow the pool structure to be 10 feet from the property line.
Borgatti shared that in the area along the property line nearest the proposed pool location, his house is only 15 feet from the boundary. When the subdivision was fully built out in 2015, each of those houses had 1/2 acre lots. As a result, he felt the neighborhood was already overcrowded and to have a pool encroach the buffer would only make it worse. He worried that granting the variance would set a bad precedent.
He also relayed that when he moved in he knew from the deed that his backyard and those of the other houses on his side of the road abutted conservation land. For this reason, he paid a premium for the lot since he knew no houses could be built behind him.
He expressed that he did not want his neighbor to not have a pool but felt that it should be a smaller one. He also said that the Homeowner’s Association forbids any grading changes that would alter the drainage pattern between houses. He has had two washouts in the past and was concerned that construction for the pool might alter the flow.
ZBA member Suzanne Brunelle asked if the pool could be pushed back further so that more of it was behind the house. Boorda replied that it could not because of a propane tank in the backyard. Brunelle followed up asking if the decking around the pool was required to which de Bernardo said that decking was an integrated part of the support structure of the pool.
ZBA Member Jim Tirabassi asked de Bernardo if his company offered smaller pools and learned that 12 ft. x 24 ft. and 12 ft. by 20 ft. options are available. He asked if with a 12 ft. x 24 ft. pool it could be pushed back further so that more of it was behind the house and out of the buffer.
Boorda felt that the propane tank would not allow that. Upon questioning from Tirabassi, it was learned that the propane tank was 16-18 ft. away from the originally proposed location for the pool. Tirabassi suggested that a smaller 12 ft. x 24 ft. pool could be moved five feet closer to the propane tank and thus out of the buffer.
Benard asked the applicant if they would consider the smaller pool. The homeowner stated that they chose the 16 ft. x 24. ft. pool because as a family of five they felt that would keep people from jumping on top of each other when entering the pool. Boorda asked if she would have to agree to a smaller pool to be granted a variance. Benard replied that with a smaller pool a variance would not be required, but that she could not comment on whether they were likely to be denied until the board deliberated.
After a private discussion between Boorda and de Bernardo, the applicant withdrew the request for a variance, deciding instead to forgo the 6-foot deck to make the larger pool fit without going into the buffer.