Code Enforcement Department Issues New Protocol for “Teardown/Rebuilds”

By Dot Bergin

Christopher Laskey, Code Enforcement Director, has issued a memo to developers and general contractors that a new protocol will take effect on November 2, 2015 which will require most “teardown/rebuilds” and large additions on non-conforming (under-sized) lots to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a Special Permit/Finding prior to filing for a building permit.

Big Change from Current Practice

The memo is intended for developers and contractors primarily involved with substantial redevelopment of pre-existing, non-conforming, single-family dwellings and lots, up to and including the tearing down and rebuilding of the dwelling on the same lot. Current protocol allows a pre-existing, non-conforming single or two-family dwelling on a non-conforming lot to be razed and rebuilt as of right, as long as the new structure meets the town’s setback requirements.

The change is based on recent case law cited by Town Counsel (Bransford v. ZBA of Edgartown) in which the Court determined that the purpose of lot size includes maintaining the character of a neighborhood, controlling density, providing adequate light and air and preventing overcrowding of land.

Projects to be reviewed by the ZBA:

  • All “teardowns” where the proposed building footprint and/or height is larger/taller than the existing dwelling
  • Second story additions  on  existing  single-story dwellings
  • Addition or multiple additions with a total footprint over 600 sq.ft.
  • Decks that do not meet the minimum setback requirements.

 What Will the Zoning Board be Looking at when reviewing these Petitions?

The Board will be looking at whether or not the proposed dwelling or addition will 1) be in harmony with the purpose and intent of the Bylaw and 2) will not be substantially more detrimental or injurious to the neighborhood in which it is to take place. The Board may perform a site inspection to take into account the size and height of the surrounding homes in the neighborhood and how the proposed dwelling/addition’s mass and/or height might impact those homes. Will the proposed structure’s mass/height affect abutters’ light source and/or view? Will the proposed structure cover too much of the under-sized lot and overcrowd the land?

Although not on the Planning Board’s October 27 meeting agenda, several members stressed the urgency of making the new protocol widely available to realtors and to the general public.

Click here to read Chris Laskey’s complete memo on teardowns

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