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Plainville Avenue Subdivision Passes Over Neighbors' Objections

Dean Burhoe gets approval to subdivide property on Route 177.

After months of concessions, back and forth comments with the town engineering department, Dean Burhoe has permission to subdivide his lot at 334 Plainville Ave. and build an additional house.

Burhoe made the application to subdivide just months after being issued a cease and desist order for running his landscaping business out of the property where he lives. The town took action after numerous complaints from neighbors.

The initial application proposed building two houses in addition to Burhoe’s home on the long, narrow lot, but members of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission indicated they would not support it.

At each of several evenings of a public hearing on the matter, neighbors petitioned the commission to deny Burhoe’s application, citing concerns about well contamination, site lines, buffering and quality of life.

Burhoe, represented by attorney Daniel Kleinman of Levy & Droney, agreed to alter his application according to the suggestions of the commission and pared the plan down to a single additional house, proposed for a size of between 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.

Though the commission granted approval for the subdivision in a 4-2 vote with Chairman Phil Dunn and Commissioner Todd Litchfield opposing, it came with a condition on the house’s size: any house built must not exceed 2,400 square feet.

At issue was the character of the neighborhood, and besides Dunn and Litchfield, the commissioners were supportive.

“There have been a lot of concessions, a lot of things done to take this from a project I wasn’t enthused about initially to something I think works,” Don Doeg said.

Neighboring houses to Burhoe’s were built on long narrow lots and staggered to allow for privacy. Across the street is a row of 900-1,000 square-foot houses characteristic of the area. In the area, Burhoe’s home was assessed as having the greatest value.

“I would think the applicant would be very careful what he put in front of his own house to protect his own interests. I don’t think he’s going to put a mansion there as suggested,” Barbara Brenneman said. 

But Dunn disagreed. 

“At some point somebody took this parcel of land and carved it up into three very narrow but deep lots, perfectly suitable for single-family homes. I have an issue with the massing of a 4,000 square foot house in Mr. Burhoe’s front yard directly next to Mr. Grouten’s property…. I certainly think Mr. Grouten never expected a house of that scale – nearly double the size of their own – in their neighbor’s front yard,” he said.

Litchfield agreed, saying that a 4,000 square foot house would still be 30 percent larger than the largest nearby house next to Burhoe’s and therefore not in keeping with the neighborhood.

And while Brenneman said she was “not comfortable that we as a commission are talking right now about the size of someone’s personal property …he has right to subdivide within reasonable regulations…” she and others agreed that a 4,000 square foot house would not be in keeping with the neighborhood, as the regulations require. 

A motion was made and approved to limit the proposed house to 2,400 square feet.

Ann Randolph January 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Were the property owners ever fined by the town for illegally running their landscaping business from their residential property? Dozens of landscaping trucks and equipment were being stored there. A cease and desist was not enough in this case. Glad I'm not his neighbor.
April Rogers January 16, 2013 at 01:23 PM
Planning and Zoning... YOU LET THE WHOLE TOWN DOWN!
Daisy Mae January 16, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Are you kidding? This is the best zoning board around. If they denied the property owner the right to develop his land they would be just like all the other politicians, what's yours is mine!!!!! Since when is 3 houses a subdivision?
michael reddick January 16, 2013 at 04:18 PM
@ Ms. Randolph, unfortunately, there are irresponsible businesses out there, such as this one, that ignore cease and desist orders, and continue to operate inappropriately, and illegally, and operate the way they want to operate, regardless of the rules. Kudos to Mr. Dunn and Mr. Litchfield for voting no. The "No" vote was the correct vote., in this case.
Ann Randolph January 16, 2013 at 04:38 PM
@Michael Reddick, agreed on all points. I am all for property owners' rights, but I believe that the property owners in this case gave up some of their rights when they willfully violated residential zoning ordinances and failed to adhere to a cease and desist.
bearfoot wildlife control LLC January 16, 2013 at 10:33 PM
As a neighbor of Mr Burhoe, we have put up with him running his buisness for 25 years in a residential zone and we never complained. We would listen to the machinery on summer nights till 9.pm loading trucks for the next day. Winter time we would be the same thing day and night during storms. The question I have and asked at the meetings is why there were no soil tests done to check for hazardous waste. I have worked construction myself for 25 years with WELL maintained equipment and not many days go by without someone putting down speedy dry to clean up some type of oil. His work yard was not paved it was gravel. Where did the spills go if there were any? Storing large amounts of salt for winter use also is a major concern of mine, again no proper water collection from the salt barn. I guess 25 years of not paying commercial taxes and putting a burden on all the neighbors gives you the right to get one last dig to the neighbors because you finally got shut down. I also think the public needs to know that there was a petition signed by approximately 20 Farmington taxpayers and it was submitted against this proposal for subdivision. Maybe if we had hired a high priced lawyer, there would have been a different outcome. Thank you Mr. Dunn and Mr. Litchfield and shame on the rest of the board for not seeing that Mr. Burhoe's plan is simply retaliation for the fact that he now has to act as a responsible commercial business owner.
Daisy Mae January 20, 2013 at 01:50 PM
25 years is a long time not to complain but if you had maybe the situation would not have gone on so long.

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