ZBA Says No to Additional Variance in Westbrook, Connecticut

WESTBROOK – For some Stannard Beach Community residents, it’s more than just stone fascia, a cedar fence, and a missing hedge at 73 2nd Ave. that has flared up tempers.

While those on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals have no jurisdiction regarding hedges, they did require owner Ron Lyman to follow conditions of a variance they issued to him in January 2006 and a Cease and Desist letter written by Zoning Enforcement Officer Nancy Rudek on Oct. 1.

This means that stone fascia and a cedar fence, which violate zoning regulations, have to go and Lyman predicts this will cost thousands of dollars.

Several residents in the neighborhood weighed in on this battle.

Michael Rottlblatt, a resident of 145 2nd Ave., said that “people are deeply distributed with what was has transpired for the past year and a half.”

It all started when Lyman bought his property and requested permission to demolish the structure and build a new home with a garage.

A ZBA issued variance allowed him to build within the typical ten foot setback and go as close as seven inches to the property line.

Lyman approached abutting neighbors, Harvey and Myra Fishman, of 77 2nd Ave. and signed an easement agreement with them promising that if a nearby nine-foot hedge needed to be removed, he would pay for a new one.

During construction, Lyman discovered the hedge’s roots were half on his property and half on the Fishman property and it was removed.

Lyman said he offered the Fishman’s several types of hedges which they rejected claiming they were not tall enough.

According to an e-mail in the ZBA file, Fishman wanted a six to seven foot hedge close to the property line but Lyman opposed this fearing it could grow too tall and endanger his fence and house.

No agreement has yet been made regarding the hedge but the Fishman’s talked to Rudek about concerns that Lyman’s fence and stone fascia was not in compliance.

Rudek investigated and discovered the fence, which was attached to a cement retaining wall, was as tall as six feet ten inches.

Town regulations require fences taller than six feet to meet the same setback rules as buildings, Rudek said.

She also discovered that the stone fascia was three and a half inches from the property line, much closer than the seven inch limit imposed by the previous variance.

Lyman said he thought he was following zoning regulations prior to construction after talking with Building Official Roger Zito.

Thomas Clotuier, Lyman’s attorney, said that he believes the “ambiguities of the regulations should constitute a hardship.”

Neighbors feared that if the ZBA gave another variance to Lyman, it could open a Pandora’s Box to others who wish to receive more leeway even when they previously received a variance.

Lyman “continues in behavior and actions that threatens to set dangerous and injurious precedent to the determent of the entire neighborhood,” Rottblatt said, adding that, “this is important to all of us because it sets a precedent, we can’t afford to be living on top of each other.”

David R. Chozick, who lives at 34 Stannard Dr., wrote a letter stating that a variance on top of a variance would be “a mockery of having any zoning laws.”

Some residents, like Peter and Adeline Sanzo, who live at 87 2nd Ave., say that this illustrates the increasing trend of beach community residents to enlarge their homes.

John Arbella, a resident of 57 2nd Ave., had a different opinion and wrote that he believed the fence “is very aesthetic, tasteful, and in keeping with the beauty and attractiveness of the Stannard Beach community.”

After hearing the decision, Fishman said, “I think the board upheld their own convictions…it’s saying you can’t push the envelope as much as you think.”
Lyman said he always tried to be a good neighbor and that “I only tried to make the house as nice as possible.”

He explained that he will take down the fence and remove the stone fascia but initially installed both to better the appearance of the neighborhood.

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