Lloyd Resident John Fanelli is seeking an area variance from the Lloyd Zoning Board of Appeals to allow him to keep an accessory structure in his front yard at 26 Gabriety Road.
In 2018 Fanelli renovated a small 640 sq/ft 1930s era home on his 1.97 acre property but last summer he built a new much larger second home on the same parcel. The area is zoned Agricultural 2 acre, which is the way it was zoned when Fanelli purchased it, that does not allow two homes on one property. In addition, the small older home is defined as an accessory building that sits in front of the new home. This violates Sec. 100-16 of the zoning code that states, “No accessory building shall be located within a front yard.”
At the last Zoning Board meeting Fanelli pointed out that he applied for and received a building permit on May 17, 2019 to construct the new second home that he is now living in. He said the new house meets the required setbacks and each house has county approved septic systems. In addition, the two homes share one well on the property and Fanelli “bought into” a driveway agreement with his neighbors to allow proper access for vehicles and for emergency access.
Fanelli said when he was having a final inspection done on his new home in order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy [CO], Building Department Director Dave Barton said, “time out, the little house cannot stand.” Fanelli said, “Here I am asking you guys if I can get the CO on the new house and keep the little house standing.”
Zoning Board Chairman John Litts explained that, if a Variance were to be granted by the ZBA, Fanelli would be allowed to keep the [smaller] house where it is, but a CO is the purvue of the Building Department.
Land Use Attorney Rob Stout acknowledged there are two principal structures on one lot and one solution may be to subdivide the property into two distinct one acre lots.
When asked what the small house would be used for, Fanelli responded, “what it boils down to is what are you going to let me use it for; it’s as simple as that.” Fanelli said he would like to keep the small house for use as a guest cottage but would rent it out if the board allowed it.
Garguilo asked Fanelli if he knew when he built the second home that the small one would have to be taken down. He denied any knowledge of this stipulation and showed the board maps of varying sized lots in his area, some being one acre with a house when the zoning in this area was one acre.
Chairman Litts said he does not see this issue as a simple area variance because an accessory building in the front yard has to complement the primary dwelling, such as a garage with an apartment above it or a shed.
“This is clearly another standing alone dwelling with no accessory use to the primary,” he said, adding that Fanelli would have to provide documentation to the board on what the use will be for the small home.
Litts offered an additional caveat that appears contrary to the code stipulation.
“I understand our criteria [but] in my eyes that doesn’t meet an accessory building,” he said.
Stout said a guest house can be accessory to a main house, which the board could re-examine during their deliberations.
“The question is whether it is actually accessory or not,” he said, adding that at the public hearing for this applicant the public could weigh in, “on what people think about the nature of the area and what is in fact customary in that area.”
Fanelli said he submitted a dozen letters of support from his neighbors to Dave Barton that were to be put in his file, however, a review of the departments file by the Southern Ulster Times showed only two letters from the public in his file.
In a December 2, 2019 letter to the ZBA, neighbor William Meltzer said although Fanelli’s houses “do not look out of place for the neighborhood,” he assumed that when Fanelli built the new house he had the required approvals from the town.
“I was surprised to hear that a variance of some kind was now required,” he said.
A second letter in the file to the ZBA from neighbor and attorney Peter Cordovano, dated December 3, 2019, pointed out that he did not receive any notice that a variance was pending nor any information of a hearing before the ZBA.
“We always assumed all proper applications, permits and approvals were in place. Apparently, this was not the case,” he wrote.
Cordovano said Fanelli’s new home, “now sits directly between my home and a wonderful view my property once enjoyed of Illinois Mountain. As a result, our property has been devalued through no fault of my own, which is my undue and unnecessary economic hardship.”
Cordovano said Fanelli asked him to sign a letter of support for his new structure, which stated that if he [Fanelli] knew the smaller home had to be removed, he would never have erected such a big home. Cordovano responded that, “If erection of the 2nd single family home had been done in accordance with the zoning laws, which are a matter of public record and which all residents are chargeable with knowledge thereof, the Zoning Board wouldn’t need to fix a problem created and then handed to them by Mr. Fanelli.”
Garguilo continued to press Fanelli on how a building permit for a second home was issued for the property. Deputy Building Inspector Anthony Giangrasso said there is no written record for him on this point but he was told that Mr. Fanelli was informed that if he were to build a new house the smaller one had to be removed.
“There is nothing that I can find in the record, so that’s where this is at and this is why John is here and this is why it’s in the position it’s in,” Giangrasso said.
Building Department records show that Giangrasso signed a Building Permit for Fanelli to construct a single family dwelling, dated May 17, 2019. The permit does not contain a stipulation that the small house has to be removed nor any mention of two houses on one parcel.
Litts said this issue for the ZBA falls into two possible categories.
“One is a secondary dwelling on one piece of property and the other is an accessory because this is no longer the main building. It would be an accessory in the front yard of his new house, which is what’s in front of us here” he said.
Litts wants a letter from Fanelli stating that he would not rent the small home for rental income but that it would be used only as a guest house for his visitors.
The board took no action on this matter in order to have more time for their review. The board stated they are leaning toward splitting the property into two, separate 1 acre parcels despite the problem being self-created and that the current zoning in this area is 2 acre and not 1 acre.
Fanelli will be on the ZBA’s agenda for January 9 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 12 Church St, Highland.