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Plainville Ave. Barn Inspires Zoning Commission to Reconsider Limits on Expansions

Amendment proposed last year to prevent "McMansions" from popping up in established neighborhoods would also include outbuildings.

A proposed zoning amendment to regulate how homes can be added on to was taken off the table last year but, following a few controversial expansions, is now being reconsidered.

The proposed amendment was discussed extensively last year by the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, with considerable outcry from some homeowners in town. The proposal, to limit expansions on existing homes to 30 percent of their original size, was an effort to preserve the character of neighborhoods and prevent "McMansions" from being built.

Now, the matter will be reconsidered - this time including language limiting the size of garages and outbuildings that can be constructed.

That would give the commission the power to prevent such structures as the new red barn at the top of Plainville Avenue from being built.

"The genesis of the proposed regulations was a few structures in town in residential zones completely out of scale," said Commission Chairman Phil Dunn at a recent meeting. "We tried to come up with a way to regulate that and not prohibit someone from building as they saw fit, provided the mass of the structure didn’t offend the neighbors or our sensibilities."

The size of the expansion and of the outbuilding which could be built would be relative to the size of the house and its zone.

The regulation, if approved, wouldn't prohibit a structure from being built, rather it would require a special permit from the zoning commission.

"The reason I asked this be put back on the agenda was the red barn on Plainville Avenue. Under these regulations, it would not have been allowed without a special permit, which would have allowed the commission to regulate that project better," Dunn said.

The barn - or garage - which is now loosely attached to a white house at 267 Plainville Avenue, prompted a flood of angry calls and emails from residents to public officials. One Town Council member was told the structure "was a slap in the face of Unionville."

Dunn also suggested reducing the requirement from a full set of building plans to documents which would sufficiently illustrate a homeowner's planned expansion, since members of the public commented last year that producing a full set of plans was an unreasonable expense. 

The proposed regulation was on the zoning commission agenda for the Jan. 28 meeting but was not fully discussed. The issue has been continued to a future meeting and will likely be subject to a public hearing. 

Susan Copley January 31, 2013 at 11:46 AM
The owner of this home and "barn" is thumbing his nose at the town by the addition of a "connection" between the barn and his home. (If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth a drive by). Not very neighborly!
Ann Randolph January 31, 2013 at 12:31 PM
In addition to connecting the "barn" to the house, there was another condition that the owner was to follow...have town officials confirmed that this "barn" is NOT being used for commercial purposes? And will they continue to monitor that?
Daisy Mae January 31, 2013 at 12:42 PM
That is such a good point Ann. Why else would anyone need a "barn" that size if not for commercial use.
Daisy Mae January 31, 2013 at 12:45 PM
When I first saw the size of that outbuilding I could not believe that it got approved. I think we have to put regulations on the books to prevent that type of structure in the future. If the owner were to put a significant investment in plantings, that would minimize the offensiveness of what he has built.
April Rogers January 31, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Again.. what difference does it make what rules they put in place. Anyone can go to them, shed a tear or threaten a lawsuit and BAM! they get what they want.. The counsel is pathetic!
Beverly Miller January 31, 2013 at 03:03 PM
How does this structure qualify as a barn? Looks like an oversized industrial structure. And, it is ugly! New England barns, in good shape, are attractive structures that fit very nicely with our landscape of rolling hills.
Daisy Mae January 31, 2013 at 03:30 PM
If you are going to make a negative remark at least get it correct. It;s the zoning board not the council.
California Kid January 31, 2013 at 05:48 PM
what an eyesore! a disgrace to the historical surroundings.
DeeR January 31, 2013 at 07:30 PM
This "barn" is one big hot mess. It's ugly and does not fit in with the neighborhood. Let's face the facts, its a commercial storage garage. Oh yeah, the "connection" is a huge joke.
SM February 01, 2013 at 12:47 AM
So wait I guess all of you can't afford nice toys? Some peoples toys are bigger than others & i am sure the homeowner wants a place to store them,it is illegal to own boats,snowmachines & have space to work on them inside on your property? or do you all prefer that to be done in the yard? Since when is it your collective right to criticize what another person wants on their property? It was approved prior to construction. You don't like it then perhaps you should buck up & buy the owner out for lets say $3-4 Million.......
Janet February 01, 2013 at 02:37 AM
As a neighbor of the plainville ave "barn" I have followed this story from the beginning . As usual the town is a day late and a dollar short....even within Whitakers rights zoning should have taken a stand in this, isn't this what we vote for you for, to keep our town intact. Let's all take a breathe to admit this was a mistake, a tragedy to our neighborhood, and in addition to the Burlington Rd. Corner it is time for the zoning board to do their job!!!!! Let's keep our neighborhood to the standards we enjoyed years ago when we moved here and encourage future buyers to want to be here!!!!
Susan D February 01, 2013 at 02:55 AM
May I ask, just what constitutes for commercial use? As I understood it from the neighbors, this metal structure is being used to house the owner's equipment for his business. The structure is an eyesore and does not blend into the neighborhood. I would be very surprised if there was to be any monitoring at all. What does this mess say about the capabilities in regards to the abilities of this zoning board to make good decisions in this town?
Bob Smith February 01, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I am not sure what you expect from a bunch of lawyers, but you voted for them folks. If you want different laws then you need to choose different people. It is as simple as that.
Bill Driscoll February 03, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Time to stop harrasing Mr. Whitiker.I wonder how many of Mr. Whitikers neighbors have little sheds for their mowers and other equipment?Did they get permits?Any of you go thru the proper channels.I seriously doubt it.If you want to talk about a slap in the face of Unionville you don't need to go any farther Unionville Center.No one cares about the mess across from Dunkin Donuts?We have had to look at that mess for years.Never heard too much about that.I must agree with Mr. Smith, if you dont like the job being done then it's time to elect different people.Law abiding citizens who go thru the proper channels and get the proper permits, should not be your focus.Change comes thru change.Elect new officials and leave Mr. Whitiker aone!
Daisy Mae February 04, 2013 at 03:07 PM
I agree. If we don't have the appropriate zoning regulations shame on Farmington. It would be really nice of "Mr. Whitiker to put some plantings to soften the look of the "barn" It still shocks me that a structure like that is ok and within the zoning regulations on Farmington's books. The town has approved the walgreens project and once remediation is complete that interesection will be improved. We all care and the previous owner was being fined for blight.
Susan Ingvertsen February 04, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Mr. Whitaker did not have to go in front of zoning. I was told by the town planner that he was within all of the rules and didn't need a variance to construct that building. So our zoning board is not to blame.
Daisy Mae February 04, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Still feel stronger regulations should be on the books.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) February 04, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Daisy, Susan is correct. And the zoning commission will be discussing the proposed regulation at its Feb. 11 meeting. They talked about passing these stronger regulations last year but were opposed by the public. If you're in favor, you could go and speak in support.

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