Scott-Farrar granted exception
Parking variance given after plan scaled back; expansion moves to Planning Board
The latest map of the Scott-Farrar Home's expansion project. At Monday's ZBA hearing, Scott-Farrar withdrew its request to have occasional overflow parking in the white area on the right near the Nubanusit River.
/ZBA hearing on Scott-Farrar Home expansion plan
(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
Jay Purcell, standing at podium, and ZBA Chair Jim Stewart, right, argue about Purcell's right to speak during Monday's hearing on the Scott-Farrar Home's expansion plan.
(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
PETERBOROUGH — The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a special exception and a variance for the Scott-Farrar Home on Monday, after the home offered to scale back its plan for overflow parking that had drawn objections from neighbors across the Nubanusit River on Union Street.
The Scott-Farrar board of trustees is proposing to build a new 73,000-square-foot building with 63 units — 18 for people with dementia, 20 assisted living units and 25 independent living units at its approximately 7-acre site along Elm Street and Evans Road.
The special exception would allow the home to expand from 20 units to 63 units. The variance would allow a small area within the shoreland conservation zone to be filled, in order to accommodate Fire Department access to the rear of the new building.
Monday’s session was a continuation of a joint meeting process with the Planning Board that has included two evenings of testimony from the applicants and their architects, landscaping consultants and traffic engineers, as well as public comments. A site visit was also held on Nov. 10. A number of abutters have spoken in favor of the plan, while others have raised concerns about the size of the project and its impact on the neighborhood.
One issue has been the proposed use of an unpaved section of the Scott-Farrar property near the river for occasional overflow parking. At the start of Monday’s meeting, Scott-Farrar attorney Tom Hanna of Keene said the home would “abandon its legally non-conforming right” to use that area for occasional overflow parking. The compromise Hanna suggested called for the board to allow three overflow parking spaces near the entrance to that clearing off Elm Street and eight overflow spaces on the service drive behind the building. The spaces wouldn’t be paved, he said, and would be used only on special occasions.
Hanna also presented revised landscaping plans, which now call for evergreen trees of 10 to 12 feet to be placed higher on the slope leading down toward the river, in order to provide additional screening for people living on Union Street. He said the revisions were in response to concerns raised at the earlier meetings and the site visit.
Fire Chief Joseph Lenox said he had worked with Scott-Farrar to minimize the impact of the fire lane on the shoreline conservation zone.
“If there is a fire, it would be in the back of the building. We want to make sure we have full access,” Lenox said. “We like to have it 30 feet away from the building. We tried to do the best we could, but they will have to take down some trees.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, sparks flew between ZBA Chair Jim Stewart and High Street resident Jay Purcell, who objected to the size of the project, saying 63 units was a very big building for the neighborhood. Purcell sent a letter to the ZBA and Planning Board on Nov. 20, in which he wrote that Scott-Farrar was requesting approximately twice as much square footage as would be allowed for a multifamily residential development on the site.
Stewart interrupted Purcell, asking if he was providing any new information.
“I need to make my point,” Purcell replied. To which Stewart answered, “We do have your letter. Why don’t you sit down.”
Purcell objected, saying “This is the first time I’ve spoken at a meeting,” but he did return to his seat.
After hearing from a few other residents, the ZBA members discussed the two requests.
Regarding the special exception, Stewart said, “I believe they have bent over backwards to willingly give up overflow parking and increase plantings. The architecture slopes down the hillside. All these things will be better than what’s there now. I truly believe that.”
“Historically, they just belong here and I don’t want to see them leave,” said ZBA Vice Chair Sharon Monahan. “I’m hearing that the community does support this.”
The board voted, 5-0, to approve the special exception, with the proposal made by Scott-Farrar regarding overflow parking and landscaping as conditions of the approval.
On the variance, board member Loretta Laurenitis said she had reservations about the fire lane and its potential impact on property values. But other members said Scott-Farrar had met the criteria for a variance and the lane was necessary for public safety. The board approved the variance, 4-1, with Laurenitis opposed.
With the ZBA portion of the joint meeting now concluded, the next step will be for Scott-Farrar to get site plan approval from the Planning Board. Planning Board Vice Chair Joel Harrington continued the meeting to Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m. At that time, he said, the board will discuss the site plan. At the three sessions held so far, a number of residents have raised concerns about the appearance of the project and other issues that both ZBA and Planning Board members said were really issues for the Planning Board. Harrington said public input will be taken on Dec. 10, but he also expects the Planning Board will be able to start deliberation on the site plan that night.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.