Reading, MA — By a vote of 5-0, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) accepted a variance for Peter and Pat Shields to add a covered entryway onto their 31 Randall Road home. The variance was to allow the new entryway to create lot coverage of 25.9%, where only 25% lot coverage is allowed by zoning bylaws. The structure is already out of conformity as it currently covers 25.4% of the lot.
Engineer Jack Sullivan explained that the new entryway is needed to allow the homeowners to exit their home without encountering ice and snow buildup. The entryway gets little sunlight during the day. Sullivan argued that the change is a safety issue and that the hardship in question is the small lot size, which is 8,800 square feet in an area now zoned for 15,000 square foot lots. “They have no ability to safely stand on the [current] platform and open the door,” Sullivan explained. “[The Shields] have been there since 1975, and they want to stay.”
Before the vote, acting ZBA chair Nick Pernice reminded the board that their charge in the bylaws is to “promote health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Reading.”
Applicants for a variance to build a covered porch on the front of their home at 18 Henzie Street withdrew their request without prejudice. At eight feet in depth, the proposed porch would change the front setback of the dwelling from twenty feet to eighteen feet. The ZBA voted 5-0 to accept the withdrawal.
ZBA member James Maughan suggested that the desire for the extra two feet of depth did not seem to meet the hardship criteria required for a variance. Several members of the board expressed their agreement with Maughan. “Just because someone wants something for their enjoyment, it does not mean you get a variance,” ZBA chair Robert Redfern commented.
Redfern suggested that the applicants redesign the porch at six feet of depth, which would be fully allowed under zoning without any further need of a variance or a special permit.
Staff planner Andrew McNichol reported to the ZBA that there would be a zoning workshop on March 29 with the specific purpose of reviewing the 40R bylaw. McNichol mentioned that members of the board and the public are invited to join the event.
The ZBA adjourned at 8:05 pm.