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Letter: Improving the zoning board

In watching the Concord zoning board on community TV, I noticed applicants who come in for retroactive approval after building without a permit. Apparently the law forbids taking the failure to get a permit into account in deciding whether or not to grant the variance. Perhaps the law should be changed as these cases cause considerable aggravation to abutters.

There are some things that the zoning board can and should do that might make abutters feel better treated. It can take the failure to get a permit into account in assessing the credibility of the applicant’s testimony. The board could require formal documentation of the cost of correcting the building location rather than just imagining that it costs a lot of money.

The board could make a formal determination of the costs to the abutter over the life of the violation and compare the two. It could take a more skeptical view of whether the applicant gained anything by the violation. In one case the board concluded the applicant had gained nothing from placing a garage too close to the property line although anyone walking by can see that a much more usable back yard was achieved.

Another issue: Too frequently applicants appear to face abutters angry about code violations. Apparently under current law the zoning board can’t take the violations in to account at all. This certainly leaves some frustrated citizens who believe the city is not offering them the protection it should. Perhaps the city could work with its senator and representatives to allow at least some use of a “clean hands” doctrine in such cases.

Thanks again to the citizens who volunteer their time to serve on this board.



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