Hadley ZBA gives Sarah Hastings until May 5 to convince residents that her tiny house should remain on East Street



Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

HADLEY — Sarah Hastings has until May 5 to convince residents her tiny house, a 190-square-foot home she built herself, should be allowed to remain on East Street. Otherwise, she has to leave the next day.

That was the unanimous ruling by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday. It upheld violation notices given to Hastings and her landlords, Ron and Donna Adams, in November for being out of compliance, but delayed enforcement until May 6, the day after Town Meeting. That gives Hastings time to craft a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow tiny houses, which she said are not currently covered in the law.

Hastings has until Feb. 17 to submit a warrant article for Town Meeting, which she said is in process already.

If the Zoning Board had not delayed enforcement, Hastings and her landlords would each face fines of more than $12,000.

“This was a favorable outcome,” Hastings said after the hearing, declining to comment further.

At the same time, opinions at the 90-minute hearing were mixed, with some saying she should not be allowed because she did not receive the proper permits.

“You come in and put something down and now you want the town to accept it,” said Newton Lane resident Brian Glazier. “Everyone else in town has to get permits to build.”

Hastings’ home contains a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom with composting toilet. Many of the materials she used to build it were donated, like the living room’s bamboo floor, allowing her to complete construction for about $15,000. It is also on wheels, though Hastings said it is difficult to move.

She said she pays the Adamses $300 in monthly rent, and also helps out on the couple’s farm.

At the beginning Monday’s hearing, Hastings told the roughly 30 people present that she moved into her tiny house in June after trying and failing to reach town officials all over the region. The Mount Holyoke alumna graduated in May, but could not get local code enforcement officers to return her calls about how a tiny house might legally be situated, she said.

One of the few exceptions was Hadley Building Inspector Tim Neyhart. He did not give Hastings permission to live there permanently, but agreed that she had a right to stay there on a temporary basis.

Very few laws exist regulating tiny houses, and the structures are not yet classified in Massachusetts. In Hadley, there are no laws forbidding tiny houses, but there is a 1961 bylaw only allowing one dwelling per buildable lot, for which Hastings and her landlords received the violation notice.

At the same time, there are exceptions for so-called “in-law apartments” attached to the main house.

Neyhart has said he is sympathetic to the tiny house movement, but also said he must uphold the zoning bylaws of Hadley.

Hastings said she realized that if she wanted to fight for tiny houses to be allowed, she could not wait for “someone else” to pave the way for her. “I’m proud to be that ‘someone else,’ ” she said.

Jason Kotoch, a renter in Hadley, said he graduated from the University of Massachusetts with $50,000 in debt and it is not realistic for him to buy a lot and build a conventional house. He said after meeting with Hastings he has been inspired to pursue a legal way to build and park a tiny house in town, and has faced challenges.

“In calling different towns trying to get in touch with inspectors to do this the right way up front, I cannot even get a call back,” he said. “They don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Carol Smith, a Lawrence Plain Road resident, said she was concerned that if Hastings is allowed to stay it would set a bad precedent.

“If this is allowed then anybody who has a piece of property they are not using could put campers or trailers on it and then it would make a trailer park,” she said.

James Maksimoski, chairman of the Hadley Planning Board, said during the hearing that the Planning Board has no formal stand on tiny houses and encouraged Hastings to come before his board to have a formal hearing. He added that to remove her before she was able to make her case would be “downright cruel.”

Ron Adams said he and his wife admire Hastings and appreciated her effort to operate in the open.

“She will do everything she can to get that permit,” Adams said. “In the end we may have to part company and that will be sad, but as I see it now, we’re working toward that goal.”

Zoning Board member Linda LaDuc said it was clear that Hastings was in violation based on Neyhart’s assessment, and said that the electricity had been connected without proper inspection.

Hastings said her electrician, Frank Wdowiak of Northampton, had accepted $2,000 to wire the house, and was supposed to provide the proper permit to hook the house up, and was in breach of contract.

Wdowiak said in October that he had told her she would not be able to hook up the house in Hadley. “I think she should be called to task,” Wdowiak said in October. “Because of the zoning laws in Hadley, you cannot live in a trailer.”

Zoning Board member Andrew Bombardier said the board’s decision that evening would not set precedent, as the board works only on a case-by-case basis. He said he believed it made sense to both uphold Neyhart’s violation notices, but also offer relief until Town Meeting could decide on the matter.

Zoning Board Chairman John Kokoski said he believes Hastings and the Adamses were “clearly in violation to start with.”

“If this type of permission or taking advantage of non-permission is taken advantage of, anybody can do this for anything, and then the town looks like we’re wide open for anything anybody wants to do,” Kokoski said.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said the board could uphold Neyhart’s violation, but stay enforcement until after Town Meeting. If Town Meeting decides that a tiny house is allowable, then enforcement will be moot at that time, he said.

Bombardier made a motion to that effect and LaDuc seconded. Both voted in favor. Kokoski, barely audible, said he would “reluctantly” vote for the motion, as well.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.

HADLEY — Sarah Hastings has until May 5 to convince residents her tiny house, a 190-square-foot home she built herself, should be allowed to remain on East Street. Otherwise, she has to leave the next day.

That was the unanimous ruling by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday. It upheld violation notices given to Hastings and her landlords, Ron and Donna Adams, in November for being out of compliance, but delayed enforcement until May 6, the day after Town Meeting. That gives Hastings time to craft a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow tiny houses, which she said are not currently covered in the law.

Hastings has until Feb. 17 to submit a warrant article for Town Meeting, which she said is in process already.

If the Zoning Board had not delayed enforcement, Hastings and her landlords would each face fines of more than $12,000.

“This was a favorable outcome,” Hastings said after the hearing, declining to comment further.

At the same time, opinions at the 90-minute hearing were mixed, with some saying she should not be allowed because she did not receive the proper permits.

“You come in and put something down and now you want the town to accept it,” said Newton Lane resident Brian Glazier. “Everyone else in town has to get permits to build.”

Hastings’ home contains a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom with composting toilet. Many of the materials she used to build it were donated, like the living room’s bamboo floor, allowing her to complete construction for about $15,000. It is also on wheels, though Hastings said it is difficult to move.

She said she pays the Adamses $300 in monthly rent, and also helps out on the couple’s farm.

At the beginning Monday’s hearing, Hastings told the roughly 30 people present that she moved into her tiny house in June after trying and failing to reach town officials all over the region. The Mount Holyoke alumna graduated in May, but could not get local code enforcement officers to return her calls about how a tiny house might legally be situated, she said.

One of the few exceptions was Hadley Building Inspector Tim Neyhart. He did not give Hastings permission to live there permanently, but agreed that she had a right to stay there on a temporary basis.

Very few laws exist regulating tiny houses, and the structures are not yet classified in Massachusetts. In Hadley, there are no laws forbidding tiny houses, but there is a 1961 bylaw only allowing one dwelling per buildable lot, for which Hastings and her landlords received the violation notice.

At the same time, there are exceptions for so-called “in-law apartments” attached to the main house.

Neyhart has said he is sympathetic to the tiny house movement, but also said he must uphold the zoning bylaws of Hadley.

Hastings said she realized that if she wanted to fight for tiny houses to be allowed, she could not wait for “someone else” to pave the way for her. “I’m proud to be that ‘someone else,’ ” she said.

Jason Kotoch, a renter in Hadley, said he graduated from the University of Massachusetts with $50,000 in debt and it is not realistic for him to buy a lot and build a conventional house. He said after meeting with Hastings he has been inspired to pursue a legal way to build and park a tiny house in town, and has faced challenges.

“In calling different towns trying to get in touch with inspectors to do this the right way up front, I cannot even get a call back,” he said. “They don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Carol Smith, a Lawrence Plain Road resident, said she was concerned that if Hastings is allowed to stay it would set a bad precedent.

“If this is allowed then anybody who has a piece of property they are not using could put campers or trailers on it and then it would make a trailer park,” she said.

James Maksimoski, chairman of the Hadley Planning Board, said during the hearing that the Planning Board has no formal stand on tiny houses and encouraged Hastings to come before his board to have a formal hearing. He added that to remove her before she was able to make her case would be “downright cruel.”

Ron Adams said he and his wife admire Hastings and appreciated her effort to operate in the open.

“She will do everything she can to get that permit,” Adams said. “In the end we may have to part company and that will be sad, but as I see it now, we’re working toward that goal.”

Zoning Board member Linda LaDuc said it was clear that Hastings was in violation based on Neyhart’s assessment, and said that the electricity had been connected without proper inspection.

Hastings said her electrician, Frank Wdowiak of Northampton, had accepted $2,000 to wire the house, and was supposed to provide the proper permit to hook the house up, and was in breach of contract.

Wdowiak said in October that he had told her she would not be able to hook up the house in Hadley. “I think she should be called to task,” Wdowiak said in October. “Because of the zoning laws in Hadley, you cannot live in a trailer.”

Zoning Board member Andrew Bombardier said the board’s decision that evening would not set precedent, as the board works only on a case-by-case basis. He said he believed it made sense to both uphold Neyhart’s violation notices, but also offer relief until Town Meeting could decide on the matter.

Zoning Board Chairman John Kokoski said he believes Hastings and the Adamses were “clearly in violation to start with.”

“If this type of permission or taking advantage of non-permission is taken advantage of, anybody can do this for anything, and then the town looks like we’re wide open for anything anybody wants to do,” Kokoski said.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said the board could uphold Neyhart’s violation, but stay enforcement until after Town Meeting. If Town Meeting decides that a tiny house is allowable, then enforcement will be moot at that time, he said.

Bombardier made a motion to that effect and LaDuc seconded. Both voted in favor. Kokoski, barely audible, said he would “reluctantly” vote for the motion, as well.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.


 


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