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Lyndeborough

Facing the letter of the law

LYNDEBOROUGH: Resident seeking to maintain his view in order to help kids with autism

  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to property line

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to property line

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to property line

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Lyndeborough man being told to move shed that's too close to  property line<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

LYNDEBOROUGH — Allan Morrison’s being asked to change his point of view.

In March, Morrison’s request for a variance to the setback requirements for a cabin he’d built on a remote lot off Mountain Road was denied by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The town’s zoning ordinance requires buildings to be set back 50 feet from all property lines, and the cabin, even though it’s about a quarter mile back in woods, sits right next to the stone wall that marks Morrison’s property line.

“I know I built it close to the line,” Morrison said Thursday, after slowly driving his four-wheel drive pickup up the steeply winding trail he cleared to get to the top of his property. “This is where the view is. It’s poor land, but the view is priceless.”

Morrison, who is 77 years old, named the one-room cabin “Jake’s Point of View,” after his 9-year-old grandson, Jake, who lives in Lyndeborough and has been diagnosed with autism.

“I wanted this as a place for Jake and for handicapped kids,” he said. “It’s so people who have kids with disabilities could bring them up.”

After Morrison failed to move the cabin following the ZBA decision, Code Enforcement Officer Peter Hopkins sent him a letter on Oct. 15, reminding him that he was not in compliance with the setback requirement. On Nov. 14, Morrison met with the Select Board about the issue, with Hopkins in attendance.

“The ordinance says we can’t have a structure within 50 feet of a property line,” Hopkins told the board. “If you will, it’s an esthetic ordinance, to protect neighbors. Every town has something like this.”

Morrison said that on the advice of an attorney, he had torn down a masonry chimney that had been attached to the building and had put it up on skids, so it could be moved.

“It’s no longer a permanent structure,” he said. “I think it’s very unfairly taxed.”

“Your cabin is no different than any other building,” Select Board member Kevin Boette told Morrison. “The only reason you put it up on skids is to try to avoid taxes.”

To which Morrison replied, “Bingo.”

The land has been in current use status. Town Administrator Kate Thorndike told Morrison that the town is of the opinion that about a half acre should be taken out of current use because of the cabin and path that leads to it.

Morrison asked the Select Board if they thought he’d been given bad advice. Boette and Board Chair Arnie Byam wouldn’t answer that question and they didn’t discuss the tax issue in detail.

Byam said the immediate issue was the location of the cabin.

“My advice — first get it moved,” Byam told Morrison. “Then we’ll deal with the tax issue.”

Before he left Wednesday’s meeting, Morrison asked for something from the board in writing, saying he was planning to seek advice from an attorney. Byam and Boette said the town would send him a letter and on Friday, Thorndike did just that, writing, “The Board of Selectmen met with you on Wednesday, Nov. 14, and informed you that you have until Nov. 28 to bring this property into compliance or the town will take legal action.”

As he sat on the cabin’s porch on Nov. 15, admiring the view across the hills of eastern Lyndeborough toward New Boston and Mont Vernon, Morrison seemed resigned to having to change Jake’s point of view.

“I can move it,” he said, “I can go down the hill, but I’d have to lose the view. I’d have to cut down more trees. That’s not so easy for a man my age.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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