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Westhampton zoning disputes create tale of 2 properties

  • A nearly-finished home at 32 Northwest Road in Westhampton. Caitlin Ashworth—



@kate_ashworth
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

WESTHAMPTON — As controversy swirls around a Zoning Board of Appeals decision last week that halted construction of a home on Northwest Road, work on a second home down the street is humming along despite concerns raised by the board last May.

Both properties — 109 Northwest Road and 32 Northwest Road — were issued building permits in April. How the two permits were issued fell under scrutiny by the Zoning Board of Appeals because the board had not completed the construction sign-off sheet for either property and had not reviewed the site and building plans.

But only plans for the home at 109 Northwest Road have been halted because a neighbor appealed the permit. The foundation for that home, owned by Amber Kellogg and Michael Barbeau, was built 4 feet too close to the property line. The ZBA last week denied a variance for a setback, which forced Kellogg and Barbeau to stop putting up their prefabricated home.

The home at 32 Northwest Road, under construction by Matthew Gavrilov and his father, has not faced the same scrutiny because neighbors have not appealed his project.

When former Building Inspector Charles Miller issued permits to both properties, he waived the signature from the ZBA.

In May, Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Leo Aloisi sent a letter to Miller asking for an order to stop construction on 32 Northwest Road, and another letter stating that the permit for 109 Northwest Road should be rescinded.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals request that all construction be stopped until the Zoning Board of Appeals has signed off on the construction sign-off sheet, reviewed a plot plan and building plans for the construction at 32 Northwest Rd. Westhampton Ma. 01027,” the letter states.

Miller refused to withdraw building permits for the lots, stating that the town’s zoning bylaw grants the building inspector authority to issue building permits.

“It’s up to the building inspector to review the zoning,” he said, adding that it’s not typical in most towns for the zoning board to sign off on a building permit.

Gavrilov said the town never reached out to his family with concerns over how the permit was issued, and no cease-and-desist order was issued.

He said some neighbors have been keeping a close eye on his property since he began the project.

A neighbor would walk by and warn them that the same thing that happened to 109 Northwest Road could happen to them and told them to stop construction, Gavrilov said. And one day, the woman blocked the road so a truck could not pass, stating that it was too late in the day to start construction, Gavrilov said.

Another neighbor claimed there wasn’t a building permit, so Gavrilov placed a copy in the window, he said.

The exterior of the two-story home is close to complete and Gavrilov said he expects to be finished by the spring.

Aloisi said he does not know if the home at 32 Northwest Road is in compliance with setbacks.

“We don’t have a site plan, we don’t know anything else,” Aloisi said.

Inconsistency

In June, abutter Mary Powers filed an appeal of the permit for 109 Northwest Road. She wrote that the building lot application should have come before the Zoning Board and that there was no plan on file with the town.

The appeal raised many questions, such as whether the property was a pre-existing non-conforming lot and whether it had the required frontage.

Kellogg complained to the Select Board in October about the inconsistency with the Zoning Board and Planning Board allowing 32 Northwest Road to proceed with construction without signatures and without a site plan review. The Select Board responded that it had no jurisdiction over votes taken by the ZBA, or any other boards.

Kellogg told the Gazette on Monday that she, Barbeau and their children plan to stay at a family’s home in Ashfield. She’s now looking for an attorney.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.