ZBA Overrules Building Inspector On New Decks at 172 Endicott Ave.

The Revere Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) held its regular monthly meeting last Wednesday evening, March 23, in the City Councilor Joseph A. DelGrosso City Council Chamber .

Chairman Michael Tucker and members Aklog Limeneh, John Lopes, Hazem Hamdan, and Arthur Pelton were present for the meeting.

The principal source of discussion during the meeting concerned an appeal by Thomas L. LaBrecque, the owner of the residential premises at 172 Endicott Ave. in Beachmont, regarding an order from the Revere Building Inspector that declared that the reconstruction of decking on the premises was not done in compliance with the zoning and building codes and ordered the homeowner to bring the decking into compliance.

The exact wording of the petition as it appeared on the agenda is as follows:

Application # A-22-05 (continued from January 26, 2022 and February 16, 2022):

Thomas L. Labrecque (“Owner”), 172 Endicott Avenue, appealing the Order of the inspector of buildings/zoning administrator which states in pertinent part: “This correspondence serves as my Order pertaining to the erected deck located at 172 Endicott Avenue: 1.) The erected deck is not conforming as to zoning and is also not in compliance with the building code. 2.) The Department plans to await a reasonable amount of time for the Owner to bring the deck into compliance within zoning and the code and to comply with this order.” The Owner appeals the Order of the inspector of buildings/zoning administrator which orders the Owner to cure the zoning nonconformity of the exterior modifications. The facts and circumstances support the Owner’s position that no action is required respecting a zoning nonconformity, wherein the exterior modifications do not increase the nonconforming nature of 172 Endicott Avenue, and said exterior modifications were properly allowed by right in concert with the issuance of a building permit.

Atty. Larry Simeone represented Thomas L. LaBrecque, the petitioner and homeowner of the property in question.

Simeone informed the commission that the property is a two-family home and is a non-conforming structure.

Simeone pointed out a section of the zoning ordinance that gives the board the authority to allow a modification to the structure, so long as the existing (non-conforming) structure “is not made substantially more detrimental than the existing structure to the neighborhood” because of the modification.

The reconstruction of the existing three decks, which are in the rear of the home and provide views of the ocean, followed a tortuous route. The initial plan was submitted to the building inspector early in 2021. After the plan was revised at the request of the building inspector, a building permit was issued by the building inspector on March 12, 2021, and construction began on March 26, 2021.

However, Simeone said that the contractor abandoned the project in June, 2021, and the contractor withdrew his building permit in October, 2021, without notice to the homeowner.

However, in September, the city and building inspector sent out a notice of violation regarding an increase in the size of the existing deck. In November, the homeowner hired a surveyor who performed a plot plan. Simeone then pointed out to the commission that according to the surveyor’s plot plan, the new second and third decks are smaller than what was originally permitted, although the first floor deck was slightly larger by 1.7 feet. Simeone argued that this increase is de minimis  (a legal term meaning that the change was insignificant) and should be allowed.

Simeone then made the legal argument that the courts have determined in similar cases that if the work done by the homeowner does not significantly change the non-conforming use, then it should be allowed to proceed.

Atty. Robert Hopkins of the Boston law firm of Phillips & Angley appeared for the homeowners at 174 Endicott Ave., who opposed the application. Hopkins said that the cases cited by Simeone are inapplicable to the current case and that a more directly-applicable court case cuts against LaBrecque. Hopkins said that LaBrecque either must reduce the size of the deck back to the original or obtain relief from the ZBA. He concluded by urging the ZBA to uphold the decision of the building inspector.

Cristina Napoli, one of the residents of 174 Endicott Ave., then presented the board with an often-times emotional statement.

“As soon as you open the front door to our house, the new deck is almost an extension of our living room, whereas before, the existing deck was more like an unobtrusive walkway,” Napoli said. She also said that the new second floor deck now looks directly into her master bedroom.

“I think we’re entitled to the same level of privacy that we had before,” she said.

Another resident, Bill McHatton of 89 Leverett Ave., which is in the rear of 172 Endicott Ave., said, “The new deck is within about a foot of the property line and looks right down into our yard and takes away some of our privacy.”

Atty. Hopkins further argued that the decks as constructed are larger both than what was originally there and what were initially permitted by the building inspector. He said that when the building inspector realized that the new decking was in fact larger than the original, and even larger than what he had permitted, he had the right to issue the enforcement order.

The commissioners then examined the paperwork, which included the plans that had been submitted by the attorneys.

“What’s the will of the members?” asked Tucker.

Lopes made a motion to overturn the building inspector’s decision.

Upon a roll call, the board overturned the decision of the building inspector by a vote of 4-1, with only Hamdan voting to uphold the building inspector’s order.

The board also took up the following items and approved variances as follows:

A-22-06: Applicant Steven Ciambelli, 22 Clark Rd., Lynnfield, MA 01940 requesting the following variances of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Revere to enable the appellant to construct a new two-family dwelling on Lot 70 at 53 Tapley Ave.:

1. Noncompliance with Section 17.28.020 with respect to the requirement of 4 off street parking spaces for a two family dwelling;

2. Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 (a) with respect to minimum side yard setback requirement of 5 feet on one side; Noncompliance with Section 17.24.010 (y) with respect to maximum height requirement of 30 feet for lots under 5,000 s.f.

Mr. Ciambelli presented the petition to the board.

The lone opposition came in the form of a letter to the board from a neighborhood resident.

The board had no questions and approved the application by a vote of 5-0.

A-22-07: Mario Zepaj, 78 Mill St., Middletton, MA, requesting a variance of RRO Section 17.16.040 with respect to minimum area requirement of 6,000 s.f. and frontage requirement of 60 feet for duplex dwellings in the RB District to enable the appellant to construct a new townhouse dwelling at 70 Bellingham Avenue.

Mr. Zepaj presented the request to the board. He said that his lot contains only 5300 square feet and has only 50 feet of frontage instead of the required 60 feet. He said he has the right to build a two-family home, for which he will provide the required parking, but needs the variance because of the unique slope and shape of the property.

There were no opponents to the application and the board voted 5-0 to approve the granting of the variances.

A-22-08: Basilio DiFlumeri, 439 Proctor Ave., requesting the following variances of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Revere to enable the appellant to subdivide existing Lot 2 at 243 Malden Street, into new proposed lots Lot A Malden Street and Lot B Malden Street for the purpose of constructing a new two-family dwelling on proposed Lot B Malden Street, Revere, MA 02151:

1. Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum area requirements of 8,000 s.f. within the RB District for the creation of proposed Lot A;

2. Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum area requirements of 8,000 s.f. within the RB District for the creation of proposed Lot B;

3. Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum frontage requirement of 80-ft within the RB District for the creation of proposed Lot B;

4. Section 17.24.010 with respect to minimum front yard setback requirement of 20- ft for the proposed two family dwelling on Lot B;

5. Section 17.24.010 with respect to the minimum rear yard setback requirement of 30-ft for the proposed two family dwelling on Lot B;

6. Section 17.24.010 (a) with respect to the minimum rear yard setback of 20-ft for all decks within the RB District for the proposed two family dwelling on Lot B;

7. Section 17.24.010 with respect to maximum principal building lot coverage of 30% for the proposed two family dwelling on Lot B within the RB District.

Atty. Christopher Cridler of the D’Ambrosio LLP law firm of Boston spoke on behalf of the petitioner. He noted that the proposed lot for the new home is larger than most of the surrounding lots in the neighborhood. He said the neighborhood will be improved  by the construction of a new, two-family home, which will be occupied by one of the members of the DiFlumeri family.

The existing home on the lot of 243 Malden St. (Lot A) is located at the corner of Malden and Steeple Sts. The lot for the proposed new home (Lot B) extends along Malden St. in the direction of Lantern Rd. and presently consists of a well-tended open space with a lawn, garden, trees, and shrubbery.

Robert Noftle, a resident of 17 Lantern Rd., spoke against the plan, citing the flooding in the area when there is a heavy rain and suggested that the new construction will exacerbate the problem.

“My home will become a flood zone, even worse than it is now, especially when it rains heavily,” said Noftle. The rear of his property is diagonally across from that of 243 Malden St., though they are not adjoining.

DiFlumeri addressed the flooding issue raised by Noftle.

“If anything, there definitely will be an improvement to water issues on Lantern Rd. because of the leveling of the lot and other mitigation measures for water drainage that will be included in the construction of the two-family home,” said DiFlumeri.

Denise Merullo, a Malden St. resident, also spoke against the application. She said that two families presently are occupying the existing one-family home at 243 Malden St. and inferred there will be a parking problem if the application is allowed.

However, she was informed by Tucker that the only issue before the board concerned the new home on Lot B and that adequate off-street parking for four vehicles is provided in the plan for the proposed two-family home.

The board voted 5-0 to approve the application for the variances.

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