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Westlands Watchdogs ZBA Hearing Package01-14-10

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Westlands Watchdogs ZBA Hearing Package01-14-10

Westlands Watchdogs ZBA Hearing Package01-14-10


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  • 1. Westlands Neighborhood Response: ZBA Decision Criteria for 12 Steadman St. Special Permit Application Respectfully submitted to the Chelmsford Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Date: 14 January, 2010
  • 2. Summary “Special permits shall be granted by the special permit granting authority, unless otherwise specified herein, only upon its written determination that the adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh its beneficial impacts to the Town or the neighborhood. . .” Chapter 195, Section 103 In granting this special permit. . . • Only the applicant will derive benefit • There are no substantial benefits to the town or the neighborhood • The town and neighborhood would be encumbered with only adverse effects 14 January 2010 2
  • 3. Special Permit or Spot Zoning? “Spot zoning arises where a zoning change designed solely for the economic benefit of the owner of the property receiving special treatment and is not in accordance with a well considered plan for the public welfare.” Ruling by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – Court of Appeals 14 January 2010 Should we even be here? 3
  • 4. Home Occupation By-Law  Home Occupations shall be…  (2) Not more than 25% of the combined floor area of the residence and any qualified accessory structures shall be used in the home occupation.  Chelmsford Bylaws §195-7  In conversation with Evan Belansky, Director of Community Development, the definition of combined floor area shall be that of Gross Floor Area as defined in the Chelmsford Bylaws 195-108. 14 January 2010 4
  • 5. Establishing the Gross Floor Area “THE SECOND FLOOR AND BASEMENT OF HOUSE (PERSONAL SPACE), AND SECOND FLOOR OF GARAGE (OFFICE SPACE) HAVE CEILINGS THAT ARE LESS THAN 7’3”, BUT WERE INCLUDED IN GROSS SPACE ...” According to the By-Law, GROSS FLOOR AREA is defined as, “The sum of the horizontal areas of the floors of a building or several buildings on the same lot measured from the exterior face of exterior walls or from the center line of the wall separating two buildings, not including any space where the floor-to-ceiling height is less than seven feet three inches.” -Chelmsford Bylaws §195-108 Word Usage and Definitions 14 January 2010 5
  • 6. Business Use % Exceeds 195-7 and Precludes Special Permit Consideration  Without the basement, Gross floor area = 3,418 ft². 4463 ft² - 1045 ft² = 3,418  With a total business use of 1,046 ft², the business use = 30% [796 + 25%(998)] / 3418 = 1046  Consideration of dual use in bedrooms 2 and 3 (98.5 ft²) gives an actual business use of: 33% [98.5+796 + 25%(998)] / 3418 = 1046 14 January 2010 6
  • 7. Additional Considerations  A Net Floor Area excludes “cellars and attic areas used only for storage, bathrooms, stairwells, elevators, mechanical rooms or areas for service incidental to the operation or maintenance of the building.”  Chelmsford Bylaws §195-108  Using Net Floor Area, Business Use = 33%  Total Gross Floor Area (4463)  – Basement (1045)  – Bathrooms (201)  – Stairwells (88)  = Net Floor Area (3129)  > Business Use (1045.5) / Net Floor Area (3129) = 33%  Under the Massachusetts Basic Building Code, laboratories for testing and research are specifically mentioned as business occupancies.  780 CMR 304.0 Business Group B  The Massachusetts Building Code defines a HABITABLE SPACE as  “a space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar areas are not considered habitable spaces.”  780 CMR 5202 Definitions 14 January 2010 7
  • 8. In accordance with the Gross Floor Area Definition  Removing all rooms that do not meet the definitional threshold, the true gross floor area = 1965 ft²  Business Use = 387 ft²  Dual Purpose Use = 768 ft²  Personal Use = 542 ft²  Total Business Use = 579 ft² or overall use of 29% 14 January 2010 8
  • 9. Chapter 195, Section 103 Criteria (1) Social, economic or community needs which are served by the proposal; (2) Traffic flow and safety, including parking and loading; (3) Adequacy of utilities and other public services; (4) Neighborhood character and social structures; (5) Impacts on the natural environment; and (6) Potential fiscal impact, including impact on town services, tax base and employment 14 January 2010 9
  • 10. Criteria (1): Social, economic or community needs  Zoning bylaws and Master Plan recognize inherent social benefit of residential-only neighborhoods  Special permit would create a precedent that amounts to spot zoning  If it’s not spot zoning, it’s a “new” zone w/o TM approval or review. – Anyone could have employees and customers on-site  Customers derive no benefit from OBCM’s operating in a residential setting – may even prefer working with a company operating more professionally  Non-household employees do not reside in Chelmsford; one lives out-of-state  Not using commercial real estate = empty commercial space; more economic benefit if NOT operating in home  OBCM website stresses growth goals – in commercial space, business can move steadily ahead and legally add employees in line with growth  No public infrastructure improvements offered, such as sidewalks 14 January 2010 10
  • 11. Criteria (2): Traffic flow and safety  O’Brien Compliance Management has employees, vendors, deliveries, and customers driving in and out of their facility daily  12 Steadman St. is in very close proximity to Chelmsford St. intersection  2nd most dangerous intersection in town  Police Chief sees need for cameras at lights to deter traffic violators  Major business growth on Rt. 110 impacting both Chelmsford St. AND Steadman St. traffic  Lowe’s on the Chelmsford/Lowell line  Stop & Shop scheduled to begin construction this summer ANY ADDITIONAL INCREASE IN TRAFFIC IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD HAS SIGNIFICANT SAFETY IMPLICATIONS 14 January 2010 11
  • 12. Criteria (3): Adequacy of utilities and other public services  Town trash pick-up is intended for residential waste only  OBCM is using town trash removal services for both the residential as well as the business use of its facility  Appropriate private trash pickup would require a visible dumpster on the property which would deter from the character of the neighborhood 14 January 2010 12
  • 13. Criteria (4): Neighborhood character and social structures  Non-residential employees, vendors, and customers amount to an unknown, transient, population that presents concerns in a neighborhood filled with children  The provision for business signage degrades the residential appearance of the neighborhood  In reality, creates a mixed-use zone  Sets a precedent that would allow other businesses to operate in same fashion ANYWHERE in town 14 January 2010 13
  • 14. Criteria (5): Impacts on the natural environment  Negligible 14 January 2010 14
  • 15. Criteria (6): Potential fiscal impact, including town services, tax base and employment  Town Services  OBCM has consistently defied compliance with existing bylaws – even with a cease and desist order  Non-compliance history requires monitoring  Zoning enforcement exceeds the capacity of the town’s current, over- taxed Building Department  Special permit provisions, such as restricting number of outside employees to one, is unenforceable in practice  Tax Base  Economic deficit – operating since Feb. 09 w/o payment of excise tax on equipment = loss of tax revenue to town  Decrease in home values* = decrease in property assessments = decrease in revenue collection = increased deficits to town  Employment  OBCM’s current, non-residential employees do not live in Chelmsford; one is an out-of-state resident *See next slide for more information 14 January 2010 15
  • 16. Impact to Property Values Relevant to Criteria (1) and (6) WITHOUT a business operating next door 14 Steadman St.  Price Differential = <$30,000.00> From Century 21 Market Appraisal Jan. 2010  Assuming 14 Steadman St. is average home in neighborhood, Multiplied by 21 Abutters* = <$630,000.00> loss  Even a conservative estimate of <$20,000.00>/ home price differential represents an excess of <$400,000.00> drop in market value for abutters 14 Steadman St. WITH a business operating next door *Total number of abutters = 31; 21 physically and/or visually abut 12 Steadman 14 January 2010 Should our property values subsidize OBCM? 16
  • 17. Potential Requests for Property Tax Abatement Potentially, 21 abutters could be seeking abatements from the town Lost Property Tax Revenue 14 January 2010 Should the town’s tax base subsidize OBCM? 17
  • 18. Past History as an Indicator of Future Behavior Defied initial order from Chelmsford Building Inspector re signage Didn’t comply with Lowell’s bylaws From OBCM website: 2 Sep 2008 OBCM hires new Project Engineer; • Enter and Exit signs appear on Staff up to four 10/9 for Customer Open House. Due to a significant increase in new business, OBCM has hired it’s fourth • Told to remove signage. employee. OBCM proudly announces the hiring of a new Engineering staff • Signs re-appeared on 10/13 in member, Pooja Soni. preparation for a customer visit. 14 January 2010 18
  • 19. Past History as an Indicator of Future Behavior, cont’d Despite formal notices, OBCM continued to be out of compliance. 14 January 2010 19
  • 20. Past History as an Indicator of Future Behavior, cont’d In December 2009, OBCM employees were on-premise 17 out of 18 business days > 3 Hours 4 - 7 Hours 8+ Hours 4 Times 10 Times 3 Times 14 January 2010 20
  • 21. “If you give a mouse a cookie…” In this case, OBCM doesn’t just want a cookie. . .  Wanted to “openly” operate against town’s zoning bylaws  Then wanted to operate “covertly” against town’s zoning bylaws and a cease and desist order  Now wants a special permit for one non-household employee  AND wants a variance for another employee  Talks about wanting to hire assistants to Engineers to support growth  Ultimately wants to advance business interests to the detriment of neighborhood and community 14 January 2010 21