CLAREMONT — The Claremont Board of Zoning Adjustment (ZBA) delayed the plans of Farhan Yaqoob to install a daycare facility at 145 Charlestown Road because there was no indication on his plan where the right-of-way ended and the usable portion of the parcel he is renting began. This was important because the existing, revised plan showed an island or a fence between the parking spaces in the front of the building and the road. Board members maintained that there was simply not enough room for cars to circulate between parked vehicles and the traffic on Charlestown Road.
Yaqoob abandoned plans to relocate to the former O'Reilly Auto Parts store on Main Street when the county decided to put housing for addicts reentering society at a nearby Central Street building. He received provisional approval from the city planning board with the stipulation that he identify nine parking spaces, add exterior lighting and delineate and entrance, exit and traffic flow on the property. The building had been a auto body repair shop, so the change of use in the B2 zone required Yaqoob to get site plan approval from the planning board, which he did two weeks prior to the July 1 meeting of the zoning board of adjustment.
Use as a daycare center is allowed in the B2 zone by special exception, granted by the ZBA board, which has a checklist to go through before allowing it. ZBA chair Michael Hurd first requested that there be some indication on the plan to show the location of water and sewer lines. He then noted that there are other daycare centers nearby — Head Start and Green Mountain — so no argument could be made that property values would be negatively affected. A daycare center would not cause a nuisance or unreasonable hazards. And finally, there would be no adverse impact on traffic.
In the review of the plan by city staff, they requested more information about materials to be used in the playground and about access to the playground area, which is to be at the bottom of a steep incline. They also asked that locations of pick-up and drop-off areas be indicated on the plan, as well as the location of all signage. Although the city does not regulate the number of children at or the number of trips per day to the facility — the state does — they requested those numbers.
Hurd zeroed in on the plan for the front of the building, which he did not think was realistic. “I don't think there is enough room for what is on the plan,” the chair said. “With the angle of the parking spaces, there is no room to pull in or out [and allow traffic to pass safely behind you].”
Department of Public Works Director Victor St. Pierre had questioned the arrangement and wanted to know the distance from a proposed island or median — which would separate parking from the street — and the front of building. Hurd noted that his board could not ask Yaqoob to put a curb or a fence out front if they did not know the location of boundary between the parcel and the Charlestown Road right-of-way. The right-of-way was known to be 50 feet from the centerline, but it was unclear as to whether the scale of the plan was accurate.
“I don't want him to build this,” Hurd told the other board members, “and then have the city tell him, 'You're two feet into the right-of-way. You have to tear it all out.”
Board member Michael Lemieux borrowed a scale from City Planner Scott Osgood and after making some measurements agreed with Hurd that there did not seem to be enough room to build what was on the plan. It was agreed that the parking spaces would quite likely have to go some place else, which then entail moving other elements of the plan.
Yaqoob is up against a deadline. His business must move out of its present location in the West Harris building by Aug. 1.
Hurd framed a multi-part motion that included clauses that required Yaqoob to determine the location of the right-of-way and relocate parking.
Ralston and Darlene Blair of Slab City Road requested that they be allowed to operate a one-bedroom AirBnB in their home. The Claremont zoning ordinance does not mention AirBnBs and Osgood decided that the nature of the use was more like a boardinghouse than a regular bed and breakfast. The city planner did some research and found that there were many AirBnBs in surrounding towns. In all cases they are treated as a residential use, but the proprietors have to pay the room and meals taxes to the state.
Blair had previously run a business at the location, so there is already plenty of parking available. She owns a total of 40 acres, so abutters are not immediately affected. She also stated that she had no intention of expanding the business to more rooms. In fact, she plans to begin with only short stays to find out whether she wants to continue with the business or not.
“The biggest thing against [granting a variance],” Hurd said, “is that [the use] isn't in the ordinance.”
“We have no reason to say no,” said board member Tracy Pope. And the board unanimously voted in favor of the variance.
The ZBA refused to consider a request for a variance by Diane Cyr of Westmoreland for a rental property on First Street. Osgood told the board that an attorney for the city had declared the new application to be not substantially different from a previous request, which was turned down in September 2018. Pope asked Osgood what the next steps would be.
Osgood responded that it was an unpermitted, uninspected, and not properly assessed property, and therefore illegal. There are four apartments in a building that is only allowed to have two. “They will be notified that they have an illegal building,” he said, “and they have to fix it.” The planner said the owners would be given a timeline. “They will have to pay $250 per day until they fix it, or they can come back here with a new application that is materially different from the previous ones.”