Plan to expand Howland house hits zoning snag

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 9/7/19

A Howland Road resident’s first attempt to more than double the size of his Howland Road house went nowhere last week when the Zoning Board of Appeals found fault with his application.

Instead …

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Plan to expand Howland house hits zoning snag


A Howland Road resident’s first attempt to more than double the size of his Howland Road house went nowhere last week when the Zoning Board of Appeals found fault with his application.

Instead he was allowed to withdraw his application “without prejudice” and re-file for another hearing before the board.

Matt Grosshandler, of 246 Howland Road, appeared before the board seeking permission to tear down the existing 768 square foot house and replace it with a 1,781 square foot house (not including garage and decks) that would include a third level deck. The house, located on a non-conforming lot that doesn’t meet today’s zoning standards, is located a short distance up the road from Howland Beach in the southwest corner of town.

Zoning enforcement officer Ralph Souza had rejected the application, finding that, while a pre-existing, non-conforming structure may be altered, it shall not be substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing structure.

Mr. Grosshandler’s application didn’t address that finding. Instead, it asked for a variance allowing the front stoop to be closer to the front lot line than the allowed 25 feet, an issue not mentioned by Mr. Souza’s letter.

“We are seeking setback relief simply for our front stoop alone,” Mr. Grosshandler said. “The rest of the house falls within the setbacks.”

“I am a bit confused,” board Chairman Roger Menard said, “that you asked for a variance from setback requirements.”

You appealed something the zoning official didn’t reject, he continued.

“If you had posted, I am replacing this small house with a giant structure, potentially some abutters might have been interested.”

Because the posted notice of the hearing does not accurately represent the issue at hand, “there is nothing we can do tonight.”

Mr. Grosshandler did not dispute the point, saying he had submitted his application before seeing Mr. Souza’s rejection letter, anticipating that the front stoop setback would be the issue. He said he would withdraw and re-apply as soon as possible.

Although nobody rose to speak against the project, several audience members did voice concerns.

Neighbor Carol Foster, a member of the board overseeing the small water system that serves some properties in the area (and the owner of the property where the wells are located), said she hopes for restrictions in writing that the house will never hold more than two bedrooms (Mr. Grosshandler’s application was for a two bedroom, three bathroom house).

“The water system is old and fragile,” she said, and if it ever gets contaminated, all of the houses that rely on it will be left without water.

Mr. Grosshandler said he purchased the house with the understanding that it may no have more than two bedrooms.

And engineer Sean Leach said that, by his calculations, the rebuilt house would actually contain 2,050 square feet, bigger than the application indicates.

The date for the revised application to return to the board hinges on how quickly the applicant can submit the required paperwork and get it advertised.

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