WESTERLY — The prospective owner of a residential lot on Atlantic Avenue can build a new house on the property as long as he does not use an existing cottage as a living unit, the Zoning Board of Review agreed Wednesday.
The board unanimously approved Adam J. Girard’s application for two variances to a section of the zoning regulations that set optimal minimum distances between buildings and neighboring lot lines. Specifically Girard was given two 5.5-foot variances for each side of the 2,240-square-foot house he plans to build at 457 Atlantic Ave. The property is currently owned by John R. Payne Jr. of Westerly and his sisters, Barbara Malone and Susan Dinoto.
The board focused on ensuring that the existing cottage — which William Nardone, Girard’s lawyer, also described as a fishing shack and as a cabana — is not used as a habitable unit once the house is built. The cottage currently is outfitted with a bathroom, electricity, kitchen, and outdoor shower. The cottage is connected to a holding tank that functions as the property’s septic system. Nardone said Girard plans to use the cottage as a shed or workshop, not as an apartment or separate dwelling unit. It would be connected to the septic system to be built for the house.
William Dowdell, the Charlestown-based engineer who developed the site plans for the new house, said Girard was willing to disassemble the kitchen to assure that the cottage is no longer considered to be a dwelling unit. More than one dwelling on a single lot is not allowed under the town’s zoning ordinance.
John Ornberg, a board member, said the cottage could function as a dwelling as long as it has plumbing. “I realize the intent but it’s still a livable structure,” he said.
Nardone said the cottage is similar to pool houses that have running water, showers, and bathrooms. The cottage still faces an additional regulatory hurdle. The state Coastal Resources Management Council must determine whether it can be allowed to stay on the property since it is within a 75-foot buffer of a coastal feature — a dune.
Mathew Clarke of MJ Clarke Design of Hope Valley said that in developing plans for the house, he sought the best fit for the lot while remaining outside the 75-foot buffer between construction and the dune. A narrower building would have needed to be much longer, Clarke said. Plans call for a four-bedroom house that would be 28 feet wide and 65 feet long with 15-foot-long decks on each end.
Ornberg also said the house would be unusually close to Atlantic Avenue. Nardone said the proximity to the roadway results from the need to build outside of the coastal feature buffer zone.
Angelo Pazcuzzi, whose property at 458 Atlantic Ave. is across the street from the proposed new house, said the width of the building combined with the narrow dimensions of the lot would make it impossible to perform maintenance on the new septic system without encroaching on neighboring properties. Dowdell disagreed, saying he has worked on similar sized lots that allow for adequate clearance for septic system maintenance.