Pillsbury Memorial Town Hall
93 Main Street Sutton Mills, NH
Sutton Mills, NH 03221


October 23, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.


CALL TO ORDER:    Derek Lick, Chair, called the meeting to order at 7:03pm.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Samantha Gordon, Joe Eisenberg, Katy Schneider, Mark Beauchemin, Zach Brock, Peter Stanley


Mr. Stanley explained that in the past, he has seen and worked for various towns with confusing regulations pertaining to non-conforming uses, structures and lots. In an effort to make things clear and understandable for everyone involved, including realtors, town officials and employees, and the citizens, he has made an attempt to create a simple set of regulations to address the concerns surrounding issues of non-conformance. Following the approval of the minutes of August 21st, he looked forward to discussion of the regulations he came up with.

Approval of Minutes

IT WAS MOVED (Katy) AND SECONDED (Sam) to approve the minutes of August 21, 2019, as circulated. THE MOTION PASSED.


 Review of DRAFT:  Article VII – Legal Nonconforming Uses, Legal Non-Conforming Buildings and Structures, and Legal Non-Conforming Lots

  1. Legal Nonconforming Uses

The drafted regulations suggest that once a non-conforming use has been discontinued for two years, it shall not be resumed again.  Additionally, non-conforming uses cannot be expanded or changed to another nonconforming use. A building that contains a legal nonconforming use that has been destroyed by fire or other natural disaster, or by voluntary acts can be reconstructed within two years as long as it will continue to house the same legal nonconforming use. No expansion or change in nonconforming use is permitted. Lastly, if a legal nonconforming use is superseded by a conforming use, the nononforming use may not be resumed.

Mr. Stanley said that he would add the words “…which was lawfully acquired…

Mr. Brock asked how one would document intent or discontinuance of intent with regards to the two year time limit on rebuilding or resuming a legal nonconforming use. Mr. Stanley said these are the questions one must ask to determine the future of a property and whether there could be an anticipated change in use or expansion.

Chair Lick said this is a gray area. The expansion of use is hard to define. Sam wondered if they could better define the expansion of a use; it is understandable of an expansion of a building, but use is tricky. Mr. Stanley said he would look into a better description and might try to work in the term “natural expansion” to differentiate about different kinds of expansions.  Chair Lick said this wording makes the regulation open to interpretation which can be a good and bad thing. The board thought it would be good for Mr. Stanley to research other ways to define their intent.

There was some discussion about item A3, having to do with a legal non conforming use being superseded by a conforming use. Mr. Stanley said if a business becomes a residence, then they want to return it back to a business that is nonconforming, it cannot be done.

There was some discussion about item A4, having to do with restoration, reconstruction and/or replacement of buildings. Chair Lick said the restored building should have a height/story restriction applied and remove the term “volume.” Sam suggested using the terms height, number of stories, square footage and footprint in lieu of “volume.”  

  1. Legal Nonconforming Buildings and Structures

Mr. Stanley said he would add the wording “…which was lawfully constructed…”

Chair Lick thought the first item contained too long a sentence.  It was thought to combine items one and two so the limitations follow along what is in number one.   Sam suggested having item one end after the word “indefinitely.”  Item two could stay the same and have the word “building” added. 

With regards to 2, c, Chair Lick asked if this was needed. Mr. Stanley said if an adjacent property has a nonconforming building, by expanding along this nonconforming line on the adjacent lot, you will be a few feet away from the two lots. Mr. Stanley said he would come up with some better ways to explain what he is thinking. He recognized that it could be clearer.

Same suggested that one cannot build towards an adjacent structure if on a nonconforming lot. Mr. Stanley agreed.

It was thought that these issues may be dealt with on a case by case basis. The neighbor may not care and they can abide by the will of the board.

Mr. Stanley said the whole idea is to not have everyone crunched back into their setbacks.

If you don’t make your non conforming building worse, you can build in other directions.  Katy didn’t think the height was an issue. This was discussed at length. The regulation says that the height of the addition could continue in non conformance. They are concerned with the distance from the setback line, not so much the height in this scenario. They decided to keep it the way it was, including the height restriction.

Zachary wondered if this means they could build on their house and if it gets no closer to their neighbors, they can keep building onto the current structure in a nonconforming way. He thinks the abutter’s rights are being taken away by allowing a nonconforming building to be even more nonconforming. Its not the neighbor’s building that matters, its the property that matters. The setback is to protect the property not the building and privacy. Mr. Stanley said they aren’t looking to make things worse, but to give owners a little “wiggle room” in congested areas that are nonconforming.

Chair Lick said if they follow the variance criteria to the letter it is difficult to grant a variance. Due to the nature of the property, this is intended for owners who can’t use their land in any reasonable way.

Zachary noted that buildings that are this close together that are commercial need to be firewall rated.  This poses a financial repercussion because your neighbor’s property is nonconforming. Mr. Stanley said this wouldn’t likely be an issue because every place in Sutton where this is happening is a residential zone.

Mr. Stanley noted that as long as someone is replacing their structure in kind they can get a building permit from the Board of Selectmen and not have to go through the ZBA.

Chair Lick said he would like to add “square footage, height, footprint” to the regulation.

  1. Legal Nonconforming Lots

Mr. Stanley would add the words “lawfully established before enactment of this…shall be treated as a conforming lot.”  Mr. Stanley said that means the structure can be built and is subject to the rest of the rules.

Mr. Eisenberg asked about the required width to enable emergency vehicles to pass. Mr. Stanley said this requirement is for subdivisions and driveways only.

Going back to item B2, the size limitation was discussed. Chair Lick said they could do an absolute or a percentage restriction for an addition.  They could allow an expansion so long as the expansion is “x” in size or a percentage of the size of the building.

Mr. Stanley said that his draft language was a relaxation of the rules. He said he would look further into number two.  He said he is trying to keep this clear for the citizens of Sutton.

Mr. Eisenberg said it is up to the citizen to get educated. These changes in regulations aren’t being done behind closed doors.

Chair Lick said there are two extremes: currently citizens have to come to the ZBA for any building if they are nonconforming. The other extreme is citizens can do whatever they want along the nonconformance. They need to find a happy medium. Perhaps if they decide to allow citizens to only encroach no more than 50% into the setback, for example. There are lots of ways to update this and make it clear and fair.

Zachary worried that the loosening of the regulation would allow some neighbors to feel like they were having detrimental things done to their property because of their neighbors.

Chair Lick read through the criteria to be met to get a variance, which may help dissolve these issues that come up with respect to setbacks and hardship on neighbors due to the actions of one.

Sam feels that their current board operates differently than how future boards may operate. These ordinances are being put in place to keep the process smoother.  

Chair Lick asked Mr. Stanley to redraft and look at this section again. He sees Zachary’s point in number two. It is a balancing act between neighbor and property owner wishes.

Mr. Stanley said the next meeting would be on November 20th at 7pm. Planning Board reps would be there to discuss the master plan as well.

With no other business, Chair Lick asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.

IT WAS MOVED (Joe) AND SECONDED (Zachary) to adjourn.



The meeting adjourned at 8:36pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Kristy Heath, Recording Secretary

Town of Sutton