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Board of Appeals



Applicant/ Jeffrey and Pamela Johnson
Owner: 10 Cole Road
Hingham, MA 02043

Premises: 10 Cole Road, Hingham, MA 02043

Deed Reference: Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Book 12259, Page 107

Plan References: Existing conditions plan entitled, “Plot Plan of Land,” prepared by Perkins Engineering, Inc., dated December 27, 2019 (1 Sheet) and architectural drawings entitled, “Proposed Detached Garage,” unsigned, dated January 16, 2020 (1 Drawing)


This matter came before the Board of Appeals (the "Board") on the application of Jeffrey and Pamela Johnson (collectively, the “Applicant”) for a Variance from § IV-A of the Zoning By-Law (the “By-Law”) and such other relief as necessary to replace an existing detached two car garage with a (26’ x 24’) two car garage, which would result in a 5’ rear yard setback and 10’ side yard setback where 15’ setbacks are required at 10 Cole Road in Residence District A.

A duly noticed public hearing was scheduled to be held on March 17, 2020, but was continued without the receipt of testimony until May 19, 2020 due to the Covid-19 State of Emergency. All substantive sessions of the hearing, including May 19, 2020 and June 23, 2020, were held via Zoom as an alternate means of public access pursuant to an Order issued by the Governor of Massachusetts dated March 12, 2020 Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law. Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 additionally suspended any requirement that a hearing commence within a specific period of time and related permitting timeframes during the Covid-19 state of emergency. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board denied the requested relief.

The Board panel consisted of its regular members Robyn S. Maguire, Chair, and Paul K. Healey, and associate member Joseph Ruccio. The Applicant and the project architect, Alan Kearney, represented the application to the Board during the hearings.

Throughout the hearing, 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 14,635 SF of land area located on the north side of Cole Road. The lot is rectangular in shape with a width of 92’ and a depth of 158’. Based on photographs submitted with the application, the lot is flat. The onsite wastewater disposal system occupies the northwesterly portion of the rear side yard according to a sketch prepared by the project architect.

The property is improved by a single-family dwelling (ca. 1925). Located to the rear of the dwelling is a detached two-car garage that maintains a 4.9’ set back from the east side property line. Due to another nonconforming (east) side yard setback associated with the principal structure, the garage is accessed via a 9’-wide driveway. (Existing conditions are shown below.)

Original Plan: The Applicant initially proposed to replace the existing garage with a new garage located further to the rear of the property, resulting in additional space to maneuver vehicles exiting the garage and eliminating the need to back out of the narrow driveway. The project would have improved the preexisting side yard nonconformity associated current garage (4.9’ to 10’), but also create a new nonconformity with respect to rear yard setbacks (5’ where 15’ is required). The net effect would be an additional 108 SF intrusion into setbacks (320 SF nonconforming area proposed where 212 SF presently exists).

During the initial hearing, the Board expressed concern that the project both maintained an existing nonconformity and created a new nonconformity. Members asked the Applicant to consider by-right alternatives or expand on the variance justification if no by-right options could be identified.

Revised Plan: The project architect submitted a revised plan that eliminates the originally proposed incursion into the rear yard setback, but maintains the requested side yard setback violation of 10’. The proposed location improves upon the existing side yard setback nonconformity of 4.9’, but still results in 130 SF incursion (26’ x 5’ = 130 SF; note that the plan incorrectly indicates 105 SF nonconformity).

The narrative statements submitted with the application suggest that the narrow width of the lot (92’), in combination with the existing improvements on the property, present physical barriers to by-right construction of a conforming garage. The location of the existing single-family home, at just 9.9’ from the east property line, does affect access to the existing garage. It is unclear whether either of these conditions are uncommon in the district. The Town’s online mapping system suggests that the nonconforming width of the lot (92’ where 125’ is required) may be a common condition in the neighborhood.

The Board determined that there was no particular soil, shape or topography condition that would distinguish this property from most others in the neighborhood and the district. Additionally, the Board determined that there was not hardship since by-right options appear to exist on the property.


Upon a motion made by Paul K. Healey and seconded by Joseph Ruccio, the Board voted unanimously to DENY the requested Variance from § IV-A of the By-Law to replace an existing detached two car garage with a (26’ x 24’) two car garage within the required 15’ setback at 10 Cole Road in Residence District A.

For the Board of Appeals,

Robyn S. Maguire, Chair
February 14, 2021