View Other Items in this Archive | View All Archives | Printable Version

Board of Appeals





Owner/Applicant:          Jeffrey and Wendy Swett
Premises or Property:    71 New Bridge Street
                                 Hingham, MA 02043

Zoning District:            Residence B Zoning District

Deed Reference:           Plymouth County Registry, District of the Land Court, Certificate No. 98674, Document No. 476534

Plan References:           Plan entitled, "Existing Conditions Plan, 71 New Bridge Street," prepared by MacKenzie Engineering Group, Inc., 180 Longwater Drive, Suite 101, Norwell, MA, dated December 9, 2013, and two undated, unstamped plans depicting the locations of the onsite septic system and the proposed pool house, received March 18, 2015


This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the “Board”) on the application of Jeffrey and Wendy Swett (the “Applicants”) for a Variance from Section IV-A (side-yard setback) of the Hingham Zoning By-Law (the “By-Law”), to construct a pool house.

Public hearings were duly noticed and held on December 17, 2014 and March 13, 2015 at the Town Hall, 210 Central Street.   The Board panel consisted of its regular members W. Tod McGrath, Chairman, Joseph M. Fisher and Joseph W. Freeman. The Applicants were represented by Attorney Jeffery A. Tocchio.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to grant a Variance from the side yard setback requirement under Section IV-A of the By-Law, subject to the conditions listed below.

Throughout its deliberations, the Board has been mindful of the statements of the Applicant and the comments of the general public, all as made or received at the public hearing.

The Property is a 57,737 +/- SF parcel improved with a single-family dwelling.  An in-ground pool and deck are currently under construction to the rear of the dwelling.  The parcel has 214 feet of frontage on New Bridge Street, at its highest point, and narrows to an 82-foot width at the rear of the lot, which fronts upon a 20’-wide right of way that is associated with the More-Brewer Reservation.  The lot topography drops by 20-feet from the front of the existing home to the rear of the lot to the west.  The land to the west of the pool is significantly lower than the pool deck, is level and lawn, and is used as a play area.  The play area is immediately adjacent to the 20‘-wide right of way.  The abutting lot to the south runs the entire length of the subject property, and narrows to only 15’ in length for over 200’, also providing a connection to the 20’-wide right of way.  That 15’ strip of land consists of heavily wooded hills, and is unbuildable according to the Applicant.  The owners of that abutting lot submitted a letter to the Board indicating their support of the Applicant’s request.
Prior to the pouring of the pool presently under construction, the Property was improved by an older in-ground pool with stone retaining walls, situated perpendicular to the length of the lot, and which intruded into the 20’ side yard setback.  The Property was serviced by a “leaching pit” septic system, which was located less than 10’ from the pool.  Beginning in 2013, the Applicant began the process of permitting and constructing a deck, pool, and pool house with enclosed shower.  The pool permit was issued on February 25, 2014 by the Building Department and work began to demolish the existing pool and stone retaining wall system.  In July of 2014 the Board of Health determined that a set of steps to be installed by the Applicant to accommodate the grades presented would be too close to the existing septic tank.  While exploring the ability to move the tank, the Applicant discovered that the leaching capacity of a part of the system was at 30%, and the Applicant redesigned the entire project, and installed a new, modern septic system at significant expense.  The Applicant informed the Board that installation of the new system north of the pool would prevent the use of this area for locating a proposed pool house. 

Upon the setting of stakes adjacent to the poured pool walls, the Applicant determined that placement of the proposed pool house in strict conformity with the 20’ side yard setback would result in a tight distance between the accessory structure and pool edge, in that the narrowing lot shape (and thus narrowing lot setback) would cause a conforming structure to be “pinched” towards the center of the lot.  The Applicant demonstrated that this placement would block views of the lower rear portion of the lot from much of the patio area.  The lowered rear play yard area is adjacent to the right of way and the reservation, and Applicant sought to preserve such views for security, given the presence of hikers and wildlife immediately adjacent to the play area.  The low, depressed topography of the rear yard area renders this area impractical for the siting of a pool house.

The Applicant originally sought a variance to locate the pool house seven (7) feet from the southerly sideline.  The Board requested that the Applicant re-visit the design to determine the absolute minimum variance required to avoid the demonstrated hardship.  The Applicant and its engineers arrived at a design that moved the proposed pool house closer to the pool, thus reducing the variance requested to only 4.3’.  This was accomplished by moving the structure from 15.8’ to 12’ from the pool.  As a result only a small 23 SF corner of the structure will project into a 20’ setback to an unbuildable wooded strip of land.

Based upon the information submitted and received at the hearing, the Board determined that:

  1. There are circumstances relating to soil conditions, shape or topography especially affecting the land but not affecting generally the zoning district. The stretch of New Bridge Street where the parcel of land is located was historically situated between the country club and the More-Brewer Estate known as “Great Hill”.  There are no house lots located to the north of the Property, and, as shown by the Applicant, the Property and abutting lands were created as a part of the donation of the More-Brewer Reservation to the Town of Hingham in 1980.  The Property is affected by (i) the downward slope of roughly 20’ of elevation from the front of the Property to the rear, (ii) the narrowing “wedge-like” shape of the Property caused by the connection of an abutting property to the 20’-wide former carriage path right of way, and (iii) by the existence of the right of way and related use of that area by the public.  The abutting lot to the southeast was extended to the right of way by a thin neck of land, 15’-wide, that extends southwest for roughly 200’. This neck is topographically varied; significant earth work would be necessary in order to facilitate vehicular access and it appears to be too narrow to accommodate the construction of any habitable structure.  The creation of this neck is a contributing factor to the narrowing “wedge” shape of the Property.  Finally, as noted herein, both the west and south sides of the pool are not suitable for the construction of the pool house due to setbacks associated with a new septic installation, and the grade differential between the pool deck and the lower rear yard.  The existing home is located to the north and east of the house, leaving the southeast yard as the feasible location of the proposed pool house.
  2. The literal enforcement of the Bylaws would involve substantial hardship financial or otherwise. If the Pool house were constructed without the requested Variance, the pool house would be located close to the pool in the central portion of the lot, thus impeding views required for safety, and causing an overcrowding of structures and activities into a small portion of the lot. The congested siting of the pool house and pool area and deck in a central area would create substantial hardship, including the obstruction of views of the lower rear yard and surrounding open conservation areas that are important to the safety and security of users of the Property. 
  3. A variance may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good.  The proposed project will not create any noise, traffic, or result in other similar negative impacts.  The Property is bounded by significant wooded land and the Pool house would be entirely hidden from view from outside properties.  The proposed Pool house project is consistent with single-family residential use in the Residence B Zoning District, and the Pool house will allow for the storage of items that would otherwise clutter land adjacent to the More-Brewer Reservation.  Furthermore, the owners of the neighboring lots on either side have viewed the proposed plans and have expressed support.  The Applicant  has demonstrated that there will be no adverse impact on the neighbors and there will be no harm to the public good.
  4. A variance may be granted without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purposes of the Bylaw. The Applicant is requesting a Variance of only 4.3’, or 23 total square feet, to allow for the placement of a back corner off the structure.  The Variance would permit the Applicant to locate the pool house slightly within the side yard setback. Therefore, a grant of Variance will not negatively impact the intent of the By-Law to avoid overcrowding of land and the undue concentration of population.      

Upon a motion made by Joseph M. Fisher and seconded by Joseph W. Freeman, the Board voted unanimously to grant a Variance from § IV-A of the By-Law approving construction of a pool house with a 15.7' side yard setback where 20' is required at 71 New Bridge Street, subject to the following conditions:

  1. The Applicant shall construct the Project in a manner consistent with the approved plans and the representations made at the hearings before the Board.
  2. The Applicant shall provide an “as-built” plan to the Building Commissioner fixing the location of the proposed pool house in relation to the side yard lot line.

This decision shall not take effect until a copy of the decision bearing the certification of the Town Clerk, that twenty (20) days have elapsed since the decision has been filed in the office of the Town Clerk and no appeal has been filed, or that if such appeal has been filed, that it has been dismissed or denied, is recorded with the Plymouth Registry of Deeds and/or the Plymouth County Land Court Registry, and indexed in the grantor index under the name of the record owner or is recorded and noted on the owner’s certificate of title.

For The Board of Appeals,

Joseph M. Fisher