Zoning Board Grants Appeal on Page Road Building Permit

The Town Council, as per state statute, on June 6 approved a building permit on a Class 6 road for Peter and Susan Carl. The permit included Londonderry Fire requirements.

The property is located at 38 Jack’s Bridge Road, which was discontinued in 2004, leaving the only access to the Carl property over Page Road, a class 5 roadway that becomes a class 6 roadway where the property is located.

The granting of the building permit followed a two-step process that involved Planning Board review and recommendation and the authorization and approval of the building permit by the Town Council, once municipal liability was released.

The crux of the issue that brought the Carls before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) on Wednesday, July 20 were the conditions imposed by the Londonderry Fire Department based on National Fire Protection Agency standards. These include: 12 feet per lane, making the improved roadway 24 feet wide; turnarounds every 1,200 feet; road construction with hard, all-weather surface sufficient to sustain fire truck weight; and maximum road slope not to exceed 6 percent.

In addition, the address was to be changed to Page Road and stonewalls that may be in the way would have to be moved and rebuilt. And a private maintenance agreement signed by the Carls and other residents on that road would be required to assume liability for any damage done to town vehicles or equipment called to the property.

The Carls were represented before the ZBA by Attorney Steve Clark, who said some of the conditions imposed by the Town Council were unfair. He sought relief from the ZBA for the requirement that if the improved road is not 24 feet wide, the dwelling to be built would be required to have a sprinkler system. He said the improved roadway to 24 feet and the sprinkler system requirements are a burden and a financial hardship for the Carls.

The turnarounds every 1,200 feet were not a concern because they would not be needed, as the improved road length in question is less than 900 feet. The Carls sought relief from the roadway improvement requirement of 24 feet width and the sprinkler system for the dwelling if the road were not 24 feet.

The ZBA deliberation last week focused on the road. Page Road leading up to where the Carls would be required to improve it is 12 to 15 feet wide. The town has no formal policy for width of a class 6 roadway, and the requirements given the Carls were based on NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards.

Other dwellings in that area did not face similar requirements, and Clark pointed out the Carls obtained an estimate of $30,000 for a sprinkler system. Fire Department Division Chief for Fire Prevention Brian Johnson said that was a very high quote and typically the cost would be considerably lower – a $30,000 sprinkler would be for a “very big house,” he said.

The ZBA said that if it granted the appeal for relief, the Carls would still have to pursue the matter of building a dwelling without a sprinkler system or widening the road with the Londonderry Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office before they could receive an occupancy permit.

Clark told the board he would like relief at the ZBA level to avoid having to move on to the next level of relief but would do so if the ZBA denies the relief sought.

The ZBA questioned its authority to make the decision to grant the appeal from the administrative decision but was assured by Senior Building Inspector/Zoning Officer/Health Officer Richard Canuel and Laura Gandia that the board has that authority and that legal counsel had been contacted regarding it.

The ZBA members were concerned that requiring the roadway to be 24 feet wide would impinge on rights of way and easements belonging to other families, and would create additional problems. Looking at just the roadway width and the sprinkler system requirements, the ZBA deliberated on the request after there were no comments from the public.

Chairman Jim Smith said his gut reaction was to grant the appeal and let the homeowner continue to pursue whatever subsequent legal appeals might arise.

Neil Dunn was concerned that asking the Carls to improve a roadway to 20 or 24 feet would create issues with easements or rights of way along the proposed improved roadway. He also found it difficult to accept the requirement that they build out a class 6 road to a greater capacity than the road leading to it.

The ZBA found both the requirements of widening the roadway to 24 feet after being connected by a roadway of 12 to 15 feet, and the cost of the sprinkler system, to be unreasonable.

The ZBA approved the appeal from the administrative decision regarding the construction of the roadway to 24 feet wide and from the requirement for a residential sprinkler system by a 5-0 vote.

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