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Board of Appeals





Special Permit





Applicant/Owner:           Elizabeth Burnham

89 Thaxter Street

Hingham, MA 02043


Property:                             89 Thaxter Street, Hingham, MA 02043


Deed Reference:             Plymouth County Registry of Deeds Book 49309, Page 170


Plan References:             Site plan entitled, “Site Plan of Land on Thaxter Street, Hingham, Mass,” prepared by Neil J. Murphy, 160 Old Derby Street, Hingham, MA, dated April 2, 1985 (1 Sheet)


                                                Architectural plans entitled, “Proposed Additions/Alterations for The Burnham Residence,” including a Rendering and Smoke Detector Plan, prepared by Strekalovsky Architecture Inc., 42 North Street, Hingham, MA, respectively dated January 26, 2018 and March 16, 2018 (2 Drawings)




This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the “Board”) on the application of Elizabeth Burnham (the “Applicant”) for a Special Permit A1 under §§ III-A, 1.8.9 and V-K of the Zoning By-Law (the “By-Law”) and such other relief as necessary to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit at 89 Thaxter Street in Residence District A.


The Board opened a duly noticed public hearing on the matter on August 20, 2019 in Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street. The Board panel consisted of its regular members Robyn S. Maguire, Chair, and Paul K. Healey and associate member Joseph Ruccio.  The Applicant appeared to represent the application to the Board.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board voted unanimously to grant the requested Special Permit, with conditions as set forth 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 subject property consists of approximately 23,000 SF of land located on the north side of Thaxter Street.   The lot is improved by a cape-style, single family dwelling (ca. 1942). The proposed plan calls for construction of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (“ADU”), through the installation of a kitchen in a recently completed addition. The conforming addition was permitted in 2018, prior to the adoption of Sections III-A, 1.8.9 and V-K. At the time, the Sewer Department signed off on the building permit application, which proposed an additional bedroom within the single-family dwelling for a total of 4-bedrooms.


The Applicant certified in the application that she intends to reside in the principal dwelling and her parent will continue to reside in the 672 SF addition, which would be modified to have complete living facilities, including the existing living, bedroom, and bathroom and the proposed kitchen, for an Accessory Dwelling Unit. The driveway, which is approximately 150’ in length, includes sufficient area to provide the 3 required parking spaces.


During the hearing, the Board reviewed the application in detail to confirm compliance with the eligibility requirements for ADUs. These requirements include the following:


a.      As of the date that the application for a special permit is filed with the Board of Appeals, the total number of accessory dwelling units in the Town shall not exceed two and one-half percent (2.5%) of the total single-family dwelling units in the Town (the “ADU Cap”). The ADU Cap shall be determined by a fraction represented as follows: the numerator shall be the total number of accessory dwelling units allowed by special permit pursuant to this Section V-K plus the number of accessory dwelling unit permit applications pending approval before the Board of Appeals and the denominator shall be the total number of single-family dwelling units existing in the Town as classified in the Hingham assessors’ records. This is the eighth ADU application received by the Board; the Town has not exceeded the ADU Cap of 156 based on the 6,227 single-family dwelling units presently classified in the Hingham assessors’ records.


b.      The applicant shall, at the time application is made for the special permit, be the owner of the lot and single-family dwelling thereon in which the accessory dwelling unit is proposed and must certify in such application that (i) the owner currently occupies the single-family dwelling or will occupy the principal dwelling or accessory dwelling unit as his or her primary residence immediately upon issuance of the special permit and (ii) that the other unit shall be occupied by a family member. The applicant owns the property as evidenced by the submitted deed. The applicant also certified pursuant to Section V-K, 3.b that she will continue to reside in the principal dwelling and the ADU will be occupied by family.


c.       The area of the lot on which the existing single-family dwelling is located shall not be less than five thousand (5,000) square feet or, in the case of new construction, shall comply with the applicable minimum lot size for the single-family zoning district in which the single-family dwelling is proposed. The lot consists of approximately 23,000 SF of land, in excess of the minimum requirement.


d.      The application must be accompanied by written confirmation from either (i) the Board of Health that the requirements of the Massachusetts Title 5 septic system regulations and the Hingham Board of Health Supplemental Rules and Regulations for septic systems have been or can be met or (ii) the Sewer Department that there exists available capacity in the applicable sewer district, in either case, to support the total number of bedrooms proposed for the lot inclusive of the accessory dwelling unit. The Sewer Department approved the total number of bedrooms (4) for the lot in 2018.


e.      Only one accessory dwelling unit shall be permitted within a single family dwelling and per lot so that the total number of dwelling units per lot shall not exceed two. The total number of dwelling units on the lot will not exceed two.


f.        In Residence District D and in Business Districts A and B accessory dwelling units are only permitted in preexisting nonconforming single-family dwellings. Not applicable. The property is located in Residence District A.


The By-Law also includes a number of dimensional and design requirements with which the proposed plan complies. These include the following:


a.       The architectural character of a detached single-family dwelling shall be maintained. The project involved interior work only, specifically installation of a kitchen for the ADU. The exterior of the existing cape-style, single-family dwelling will not be altered.


b.      All stairways accessing an accessory dwelling unit above the ground floor of a single-family dwelling shall be enclosed within the exterior walls of the single-family dwelling. The ADU will be located on the ground floor.


c.       The maximum area of an accessory dwelling unit shall be the lesser of 750 square feet or 30% of the gross floor area of the principal dwelling. For this calculation, the gross floor area shall be as defined in Section VI of this By-Law. The ADU, at 672 SF, complies.


d.      An accessory dwelling unit shall not be created by any extension of a nonconforming building dimension, including the front, side or rear yard setback. The ADU will be located within the existing, and fully conforming, single-family dwelling.


e.      Any new entrance for the accessory dwelling unit or principal dwelling shall be located to the side or rear of the single-family dwelling. Not applicable. No new entrances are proposed. Access to the ADU will be gained from an existing entrance on a farmer’s porch.


f.        Water and sewer utilities serving the accessory dwelling unit shall not be metered separately from the principal dwelling. There will be shared metering of utilities.


g.       Additional or modified landscaping, fences or other buffers may be required to protect abutting properties from potential negative visual or auditory impacts of the accessory dwelling unit. There will be no negative visual or auditory impacts resulting from the ADU. The design of the addition is consistent with that of the existing dwelling and surrounding neighborhood.


h.      The parking requirement for an accessory dwelling unit is one space per bedroom in addition to the minimum required parking spaces for a single-family dwelling. The existing driveway (approx. 150 linear feet in length) fulfills the combined parking requirement of three spaces, inclusive of the one additional space required for the ADU.


i.         An accessory dwelling unit may not have more than two (2) bedrooms. The ADU will have 1-bedroom.




Based on the information submitted and presented during the hearing, and the deliberations and discussions of the Board during the hearing, the Board made the following findings in accordance with the Special Permit Approval Criteria under Section I-F, 2:


1.       1. Use of the property is in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the Zoning By-Law.  The proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit is in harmony with the purposes and intent of the By-Law because this is an allowed accessory residential use in a residential district. The proposed secondary unit will not affect the public health, safety, or welfare.


2.       The proposed use complies with the purposes and standards of the relevant sections of the By-Law.  The project, which creates an additional housing unit to enable the owners to share space and the burdens of homeownership with family members, without altering either the character of the principal dwelling or the neighborhood, advances the purposes specified in Section V-K. Additionally, the Accessory Dwelling Unit meets all eligibility, dimensional, and design requirements. 


3.       The specific site is an appropriate location for the proposed use and is compatible with the characteristics of the surrounding area. No exterior construction is proposed in connection with the proposed use. The appearance of the existing cape-style structure will remain that of a single-family, consistent with the character of the neighborhood.


4.       The use as developed and operated will create positive impacts or the potential adverse impacts will be mitigated. There will be no impacts, other than construction of complete living facilities for family members already residing within the dwelling, resulting from the installation of a second kitchen within the existing single-family dwelling. 


5.       There will be no nuisance or serious hazard to vehicles or pedestrians.  The existing driveway, which is approximately 150 linear feet in length, provides the combined parking requirement of three spaces, inclusive of the one additional space required for the ADU. There will be no nuisance or hazard to vehicles or pedestrians resulting from the creation of the ADU.


6.       Adequate and appropriate facilities exist or will be provided for the proper operation of the proposed use. The property is presently connected to water and the municipal sewer system.  


7.       The proposal meets accepted design standards and criteria for the functional design of facilities, structures, stormwater management, and site construction. The project is limited to the installation of a kitchen. No exterior work is proposed.




Upon a motion made by Paul K. Healey and seconded by Joseph Ruccio, the Board voted unanimously to GRANT the request by Elizabeth Burnham for a Special Permit A1 under §§ III-A, 1.8.9 and V-K of the By-Law to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit at 89 Thaxter Street in Residence District A, subject to the following conditions:


1.       The work shall be completed in accordance with the approved plans and representations made during the public hearing.


2.       In accordance with Section V-K, 5, this special permit is subject to the following general conditions:


a.       The owner of the single-family dwelling shall occupy either the principal dwelling or the accessory dwelling unit as the owner’s primary residence. Temporary absences of the owner for a period of not more than nine months in the aggregate in any twelve month period and active military service of the owner for any length of time shall not be deemed a violation of this requirement provided that the dwelling units may only be occupied by family members of the owner during the owner’s absence.


b.      The owner shall recertify annually, by submission of a notarized letter to the Building Commissioner that the owner will continue to occupy either the primary dwelling or the accessory dwelling unit as the owner’s primary residence, except for a bona fide temporary absence as provided above in subsection 5.a.


c.       Upon the sale or other conveyance or transfer of a single-family dwelling which has been issued a permit for an accessory dwelling unit, if the new owner wishes to maintain the special permit for the accessory dwelling unit use, such new owner must, within thirty (30) days of such transfer, submit a notarized letter to the Building Commissioner certifying that the new owner will occupy one of the dwelling units as the new owner’s primary residence and comply with the other conditions of the accessory dwelling unit use.


d.      Neither the principal dwelling nor the accessory dwelling unit may be sold or otherwise conveyed or transferred separately from the other.


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,



                                                                                                                    Robyn S. Maguire, Chair

                                                                                       November 15, 2019