Bay view wiped out in one (house) move

By Stephanie Grinnell | Sep 05, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews The house at 9 Bayview St., shown here Sept. 4, will be moved to a new foundation.

Belfast — Neighbors of a property on Bayview Street are learning the hard way that a water view is not guaranteed.

The anticipated new owner of a 9 Bayview St. duplex, Jeff Van Peski, applied to the Planning Board in March to move the existing structure, citing a failing foundation. At the time, several neighbors expressed concerns about losing their views of Belfast Harbor, and the same neighbors have continued to object, even as the property was purchased and new foundation constructed.

City Planner Sadie Lloyd said Aug. 16 the neighbors’ concerns were noted during the process, particularly about the loss of water views.

“They have no legal right to the view,” she said. “If they (the new owners) want to move it (the house) to have a better view, they can.”

Lloyd said the only way to guarantee a water view is through a deeded view easement, which most of the neighbors do not have.

Jeff Van Peski on Sept. 4 said his property does have a view easement, but noted moving the house does not improve his view.

"We would not have moved the house if it weren't necessary," he said, adding that, as a carpenter, instead of tearing the structure down and starting over, he also wanted to preserve its historic character and "good bones."

"The basement is really falling in, seriously in a couple of places," Van Peski said.

Originally, he planned to fill in the failing basement and cap it, but he said he feared the additional drainage problems that could cause. Another option — building a garage where the new foundation sits — was also ruled out when he realized he might be able to solve two problems by constructing a new foundation.

"That's why we proceeded this way, because of the state of the basement," Van Peski said.

Lloyd noted the Planning Board’s role is to review projects as they relate to city codes. In this case, the structure already was non-conforming to city codes because it was built before zoning rules were put into place. The house is just 2 feet from the rear property line, Lloyd said, rather than the standard 10 feet required for new construction in that zone. The move — 47 feet to the northwest — did not create additional non-conformity, she said, so approval by the Planning Board was appropriate.

Since work on the property began, Lloyd said city officials have inspected the work and double-checked the setbacks, in part based on concerns brought to the city by neighbors.

“They’re not doing anything they don’t have permission to do,” she said.

At the Planning Board meeting in March, some board members expressed concern about the impact moving the house would have on neighbors’ views, but were told that concern is outside the board’s purview. Regardless, some neighbors at the hearing also objected to the proposal.

Rosanne Costello’s property shares a corner with 9 Bayview St.

“I object to moving this existing three-story house closer (toward her property),” Costello said. “It will block my modest view of the bay and (existing) open spaces. … 9 Bayview is a large, steep roof that will become the only view for myself and two others. I tend to believe the action on this proposal will affect my property value.”

Speaking in favor of the move during the Planning Board public hearing in March, Mike Cunning, whose property sits in front of 9 Bayview and to the right, said he believes architect Carol Stenberg will perform the same quality work there as she did on his own recently constructed home.

“I think the view will change,” he noted. “Some will lose, some will gain.”

In written comments, four other neighbors — including Micaela Lothrop, whose property is directly behind 9 Bayview St. — objected to the loss of water views, expressed concerns about drainage in the historically runoff problem-plagued neighborhood, raised questions about the property’s continued non-conformity and questioned what materials would be used to fill the hole left behind by the existing foundation. Neighbors also speculated that the move would create another buildable lot — not possible, Lloyd pointed out at the meeting, with the 10,000-square-foot lot.

Lloyd directed property value questions to the city assessor and said the code enforcement officer is responsible for addressing stormwater runoff.

“They’re (the property owners) not responsible for fixing water drainage issues,” she said. “(But) they can’t make it worse and they can’t create a new problem.”

Lloyd explained that all new construction must conform to city ordinances but because the existing, non-conforming, structure is being moved to a new foundation, the project should be considered a replacement of a structure. The property is just outside the Shoreland Zone, so those specific rules do not apply, she said.

There was some debate about the height of the structure changing as well. Stenberg said the physical height of the building will remain the same, but the change in height as it relates to property grade will differ slightly. She assured the board the final height will be less than the cap of 38 feet, no matter how it is calculated, because a planned garage underneath the structure will be dug deeper.

During Planning Board deliberations on the application, Secretary Margot Carpenter again brought up the impact on the view of neighboring properties.

“That’s not a Planning Board issue,” Chairman Steve Ryan repeated, quickly followed by Lloyd.

Lloyd noted if the property was already conforming, the Planning Board would not be involved in the process; it it only because of its non-conformity that it was brought to the board and neighbors notified of the proposed changes.

“There is no ordinance that guarantees a property owner a view over another private property,” she said, adding the only way to retain a guaranteed view is through a view easement. “No part of the (Planning Board) review includes view for the neighbors.”

Lloyd emphasized the role of the board is to consider the plans in relation to city codes and ordinances.

“It’s not being inconsiderate of neighbor’s concerns,” she said, adding the process is following set guidelines.

Later while going over the final steps prior to approval, Carpenter commented, “Given our toolkit, I can’t disagree with them (the findings of fact).”

Director of Planning and Codes Wayne Marshall noted at the end of the meeting that neighbors could appeal the Planning Board approval within 30 days to the Zoning Board of Appeals. According to online city agendas and minutes, no appeal was made to the ZBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stephanie Grinnell
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.

Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.

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