Pillsbury Memorial Hall

93 Main Street

Sutton Mills, NH 03221


Draft Meeting Minutes for Wednesday September 16, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.


Call to Order: Chair Lick called the meeting to order at 7:00pm.

Roll Call: Derek Lick, Betsy Forsham, Samantha Gordon, Katy Schneider, Mark Beauchemin, Zachary Brock, Peter Stanley

Others in Attendance: Karl Brooks, Sutton Resident


Public Hearing: Case #2020-01, to hear a request from the Melissa Laverack 2013 Trust, 49 Off Foothills Road, Map/Lot 02-872-358, to grant a Variance from the dimensional requirements of Article XV, Definition of a Dwelling Unit, Accessory (Detached) of the Sutton Zoning and Building Ordinance, to permit a detached accessory dwelling unit to be larger than the primary dwelling unit, and over 750 square feet in size.

If the Variance is approved, the applicant then requests approval of a Special Exception to permit a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit, as provided by Article IV, B, 3 and Article V, B, 1 of the Sutton Zoning and Building Ordinance.

Joe and Melissa Laverack said they are proposing a detached accessory unit which came into effect in 2017. They are proposing building an approximately 800 sq’ dwelling with a screened porch attached. The septic system has been approved by the state and the well is in. There is a preexisting driveway and the building will be out of anyone’s view. They are currently in the position to have family around who can help them occasionally. They hope to be able to live on the land and stay together as a family as they grow older. The only impact to them is the increase in taxes. They just sold a house in Sutton Mills and have been residents in town. Melissa said that they are in their sunset years and enjoy seeing the sunset. The land they are on is quite lovely and they are proposing a small dwelling. It isn’t necessary to have a large space in which to live. They want to reduce their impact. She feels strongly to be able to provide some housing for members of her family who are helping them. Melissa said their son is at the cabin on the land that has been here since the 40’s. He has had some hard times and they are trying to support him and help him along. He is also helping them by doing things such as stacking wood. They’d like to keep their families together.

Chair Lick understood they are looking for both a variance and a special exception. Mr. Stanley said the issue is that the zoning ordinance permits a secondary dwelling unit however the accessory dwelling is supposed to be no more than 678 sq’ or 40% the size of the principal dwelling unit. This one will be larger than the principal dwelling but is still only 950 sq’. A variance is needed to allow for a different relationship, size-wise, and a special exception to permit moving forward with the accessory dwelling unit.

Joe said that because of where the cabin is, it cannot be added on to. It doesn’t meet any setbacks that must be met by today’s standards. It isn’t feasible to add on to it in any way.

Chair Lick asked Zach for his comments. Zack asked if they could designate the new building as the primary dwelling unit. Mr. Stanley said the primary unit is the first unit that exists on the property. This will have to be considered a detached accessory dwelling unit.

Sam asked if the new structure meets all the setback requirements. It was noted that it did. Mr. Stanley said it also has an approved septic plan. If the accessory dwelling unit is approved, it should be contingent upon the construction of that septic system.

Katy didn’t have any questions.

Mr. Brooks said he had some history with the cabin. He used to own 51 Foothills for many years and he helped the gentleman go to the ZBA to get permission to build a home at the top of the land and he was denied. He was there that evening because he is interested in the process.

Betsy asked why the septic system was for a three-bedroom house. Were they planning on adding on later? Joe said they were not; it was suggested to them that it would be best to do this size. Betsy asked if the cabin would be torn down eventually. Joe said that this was not the plan. They have taken care of it and have made some improvements. Betsy said this property does not have frontage on the main road, they access it from the right of way from a neighbor.

Betsy asked if it the property could ever be subdivided. It was noted that it could not as it is only 3.5 acres in size. Mr. Stanley said it can’t be subdivided as such but it could become a condominium at some point in the future. Chair Lick said they could condition the approval to be retained under common ownership.

Mr. Stanley said the 2019 ordinance was the first one that addressed accessory dwellings. Chair Lick said the NH Legislature wanted to encourage accessory dwelling units and passed a statute that told people that this should be done. Property values are high and zoning requires two-acre lots for building. This statute was intended for a large dwelling to have a smaller structure built for family to live in (in-law apartment, for example). In this case, it is unusual because the structure on the property now is so small. It is almost reverse to the intention of the statute. Mr. Stanley offered that this statute was also put into place to encourage workforce housing.

Betsy said if this were a traditional big primary dwelling with a small auxiliary dwelling, they would end up with two dwellings on a lot. This will be the same scenario and there will be less of an impact to the land.

Katy asked if this would still be the accessory dwelling or the primary dwelling in the future if it is approved. Mr. Stanley said they could declare that the new building is the primary, however today, the building there is considered the primary structure. Sam asked if, for legal reasons in the future, is the definition of the primary residence important? Mr. Stanley said that is why the dimensions are there to provide a relationship between the two. This is an unusual circumstance. They are building a pretty small new home, but there are still some legal challenges to some of these size limitations.

Betsy said the important thing to remember about auxiliary dwelling units, the owner has to be on premise. They can’t be built and rented out to other people. The primary building actually has to be a citizen of the community. The accessory is for a family member or for income from a renter.

Mr. Brooks said there are other buildings on the property though he isn’t sure what they are. He is employed by the neighbors and does work on their apple orchard. He owned the front property for 17 years and knows at that point the septic had failed because it used to run across his driveway. The owner had chosen to limit his use so it wasn’t an issue. It looks like there is not a septic there so he wanted to make sure there was a working septic system for the cabin at this time. Given there is already four buildings on the lot, the most recent is the living structure they are living in, does the fifth have any impact or legal ramification?

Chair Lick said the key here is residential or dwelling units. There can only be two. He asked the property owners what other buildings are on site. Melissa said she insisted they have two sheds, one 8’x8’ in size holds all their tools. The other is a bee house. She keeps bees and eventually it will become a Slovanian bee house. You cannot lift hives when you get older. This type allows for working horizontally instead of vertically. They do have a storage unit that they purchased that opened up into a 400 sq’ space in which to live. It was either that or buy an RV. It isn’t great to live in. Once their home is built, they are going to close it back up and it will only be a storage unit. They have a permit for the storage space, which is 8’x20’. Chair Lick said that they could include this in the condition, that it would be closed and no longer used for a residence. With regards to the septic system, Joe said Henniker Septic inspected the system and they said it was fine. They are coming on September 22 to pump it out. There has been no issue with it whatsoever. If there was a problem it would be repaired and they wouldn’t let it go.

Zack asked how they get to the cabin. Joe said it is a separate drive from Foothill Road. Melissa said their road and the cabin’s road comes from the same right of way.

Mr. Brooks said the right of way that used to come across the property he owned hugs the property line. Once it gets onto the “pseudo” back lot, it splits. One leg goes to the original cabin. Mr. Laverack said there was a clearing there and a driveway into the site they are planning to put the new house. They have roughed in the driveway a bit for ease of access.

Chair Lick said the Zoning Board would enter their deliberative session on this topic.

Chair Lick said this is an unusual situation. They are dealing with a newer building bigger than the building on site. In the spirit of the ordinance, he feels it allows up to two dwelling units to allow families to live together and for less expensive housing, etc. He feels that it is of no greater impact than a typical accessory dwelling unit. It meets the spirit of the ordinance of what is intended. His only concern is essentially they are allowing two dwelling units that don’t meet the standard. He would approach it in this way: declare that the new structure is going to be called the primary structure once constructed, and the cabin be called an accessory dwelling unit.

Zack agreed with Chair Lick. He doesn’t see any other way that they could build anything unless they tore the cabin down and started from scratch, which would be a financial burden. These are both modest structures.

Katy said she agreed with what Zack said. She would feel differently if they could add on to the cabin, but it doesn’t look like that could happen. She has some concern about setting a precedent. She likes Chair Lick’s idea of making it a primary residence. If the new building is a primary residence, can they get another secondary dwelling in the future. Mr. Stanley said he would suggest making the switch of the name of the dwellings as part of the condition. Katy feels it is in the spirit of the ordinance and doesn’t take issue with it.

Sam agrees with the others. She has no problem with the building in general. It is very secluded and has no frontage on the road, which is why she has no issue with the size of the building. She does see how it could be an issue with setting precedence. She doesn’t really have a problem with this.

Betsy agreed that it is within the spirit of the ordinance. She does like the idea to switch the names of the residences. And if the cabin eventually gets torn down, another accessory dwelling would need to meet the standards. As far as setting precedence, she doesn’t seem to think that they would need to allow the same decision for all. Chair Lick agreed and said this is a special, unique situation. He said one situation he foresees is that someone buys a lot in the woods with a camp on it for hunting. They want to build a 2,000 sq’ house and they would want to switch which one was the primary dwelling. The difference here is that they cannot add on to the current structure in question.

The criteria for a Variance was reviewed:

The variance will not be contrary to the public interest

The variance in no way conflicts with any zoning ordinance. Nor will the variance be contrary to the public well-being. In fact just the opposite. It would reinforce the importance of family and helping out one another. The character of the area would in no way be impacted by this variance.

Chair Lick agreed with this. The reasoning is to have a smaller structure secondary to the primary structure to keep families together and avail housing in a less expensive way. There is less impact in this way.

The spirit of the ordinance is observed

The spirit of the ordinance would be carried out. One structure would indeed be a bit larger than the other. The size is being decreased so as to preserve land as opposed to increasing which would put more strain on the resources and natural beauty.

Chair Lick agreed with this. It is to allow two units on a lot so long as they function together that is not bothersome to the neighborhood and stands out to be problematic.

Substantial justice is done

Fortunately we live in NH where we are allowed and encouraged to use our land wisely. Our variance would reinforce family values and demonstrate that bigger isn’t always better. Hopefully encouraging others to think small. Thus saving our woods and wildlife.

Chair Lick agrees and said there is a loss to the public interest by having two units on one lot but it is outweighed by the applicant as they cannot build on the structure there rather than a large and a smaller one.

The values of the surrounding properties are not diminished

The need and construction of DADU’s was almost universally endorsed. In no way would one reduce land values in any way.

Mr. Stanley said that there were no comments or objections from neighbors or others on this issue.

Literal enforcement of the provisions of the ordinance would result in an unnecessary hardship

No fair and substantial relationship exists between the general public purposes of the ordinance provision and the specific application of that provision to the property; and.

While the square footage requirements make sense broadly they do not in our case. We would be limited to approximately a 350 sq’ home which is just not livable for us. While we are asking for 930 sq’, not exactly a palace it is large enough for us while trying to live by the ordinances intent.

Chair Lick said this is two smaller units on a back lot.

The proposal is a reasonable one

With our new home built there would be a total of three bedrooms, two septic systems and two wells. By anyone’s standards the land will be well protected from overload of a septic system. It will also limit the number of people who can live on the land merely by limiting the number of bedrooms to three. No McMansion here. Less strain on Town resources. Further this is a beautiful piece of land that we fortunately own and now in our retirement we want to preserve and enjoy it. There is no downside to granting the variance. The town gets more tax revenue. Any noise, pollution, traffic, etc., gets controlled and we are relieved of any hardship of trying to live in approximately 350 sq’.

Chair Lick said that this case is unique. He put forth a mission:

IT WAS MOVED (Derek Lick) AND SECONDED (Betsy Forsham) to approve the variance request as requested by the applicants with three conditions:

  1. One of the two units be owner-occupied at all times;
  2. Both units are owned by the same owner;
  3. The septic plan for the new structure be followed, implemented and put into place along with any other code requirements by the town or otherwise.

Roll call vote: Zack: Yes, Katy: Yes, Sam: Yes, Betsy: Yes, Derek: Yes

The motion was approved unanimously.


Special Exception Questions

Chair Lick explained the five criteria for the special exception:

The site is an appropriate location for the use or structure

Chair Lick said they have a small footprint meant for residential purpose. It is a small home on the lot and a second home will not stand out in any significant way.

The use will not be detrimental, injurious, noxious or offensive to the neighborhood

Chair Lick said it is residential and is removed from sight. The septic system is approved by a designer.

There will be no undue nuisance or serious hazard to vehicular or pedestrian traffic

Chair Lick said it will be two units in same property. There will be minimal traffic at best.

Adequate and appropriate facilities will be provided to ensure the proper operation of the proposed use or struture

Chair Lick said the septic system and building code in town applies.

The proposed use or structure is consistent with spirit of ordinance

Chair Lick said the purpose is to allow for smaller units to allow for affordable housing and families to stay together.

IT WAS MOVED (Derek Lick) AND SECONDED (Zack Brock) to grant the special exception.

Roll call vote:
Zack: Yes, Katy: Yes, Sam: Yes, Betsy: Yes, Derek: Yes


Chair Lick gave permission to Mr. Stanley to sign the notice of decision.


Public Hearing: Case #2020-02, to hear a request by Barbara Turner, 118 Newbury Road, Map/Lot 06-522-048, for a variance to the terms of Article IV, C, 4 of the Sutton Zoning and Building Ordinance to permit the placement of an 8’X12’ shed 51’ from the centerline of Newbury Road, instead of the required 55’ setback.

Chair Lick gave the floor to Barbara Turner to state her case.

Barbara said her property is on Sutton Road and has an entire gravel yard. She wants to put up a shed to use for storage. She keeps everything (including a snow blower) in her basement. She would like to put up an 8×12 shed. The only place she can put it is in between a huge boulder and her well head. She can’t put it anywhere else on the property because of boulders and her leach field. It is 51’ from the center line of the road, which is 4’ shy of the setback.

Chair Lick said if she tried to move it 4’ away, it would hit the boulder. Chair Lick asked if she could flip the shed one way or another to solve the problem? Barbara said no. There is a small stream that runs along the side of the property. She can only go back so far. Going 12’ long and having it narrower is her only option. She looked at this to see if it would work and unfortunately it won’t.

Betsy said she looked at the site. She saw the well head and four stakes set up and asked if that was where the shed would be placed. Barbara said it was. Betsy agreed that it was a tight squeeze and was really the only place it could go.

IT WAS MOVED (Betsy Forsham) AND SECONDED (Sam Gordon) to approve the variance of Barbara Turner as presented.

Chair Lick said that the property is unique and this seems the only logical it could fit and is only 4’ shy of the requirement. There was no further discussion from the board.

Roll call vote: Zack: Yes, Katy: Yes: Sam: Yes, Betsy: Yes, Derek: Yes.


Chair Lick thanked Barbara for her patience and for going through this exercise. Her case is why they have variances.

Chair Lick said Peter Stanley would sign the notice of decision and it could be challenged within 30 days. Betsy said that they will need to show the notice of decision to the selectmen to get the building permit.

Meeting Minutes: Wednesday December 18, 2019 Regular Meeting

Chair Lick said that in the 2nd paragraph on second page: there was an extra “s” in the word “these.”

IT WAS MOVED (Derek Lick) AND SECONDED (Sam Gordon) to accept the minutes of December 18, 2019, as amended. THE MOTION WAS APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY.


New Business: Mr. Stanley said that there would be two cases brought before the Zoning Board next month. The Governor will need to approve an extension on the stay at home order to meet via zoom for the next meeting.

Old Business: None Scheduled


Next Meeting: as directed by the Chair.


The meeting adjourned at 8:20pm

Respectfully submitted,


Kristy Heath, Recording Secretary

Town of Sutton