ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT
Members Present: Ken Chester, Jeff Reder, Alison Rossiter, and Linda Coughlan, Recording Secretary
Others Attending: Dr. Stephanie Clark, Mary Lou O'Neil, Cindy Cadot and Jackie Hill
7:10 P.M.- Clark Hearing
Alison called the hearing to order. She advised Dr. Clark that with three members present for the hearing, the Board could still proceed. However, Alison advised Dr. Clark that if she decides to go ahead with the hearing with just three members, the fact that there was not a full board present could not be used as a reason for a re-hearing if she decided to appeal their decision. Dr. Clark said she decided to take her chances and to proceed with hearing with just the three members.
Alison introduced the voting members tonight who were Ken Chester, Jeff Reder and herself. Alison read the published notice which stated this was a hearing for an application by Dr. Stephanie Clark for a Variance under Article 18.104.22.168. She noted that fees had been paid and the notice had been published, posted and sent to abutters. Alison explained the procedures that would be followed during the hearing beginning with the applicant's testimony, followed by Board comments or questions, and then the hearing would be opened for public comments or questions.
Alison asked Dr. Clark to begin her testimony as stated in her application.
Alison read through each of the criteria and Dr. Clark read the responses as she had written them on her application.
1) Granting the variance would not be contrary to the public interest because:
It would only benefit the community to offer services conducive to needs of work schedules and times requested.
Dr. Clark added that sometimes her patients have to reschedule and can't get to her office before 6:00 PM. Having hours beyond 6:00 PM would be a benefit for the work schedules of patients.
2) If the variance were granted, the spirit of the ordinance would be observed because:
Patients do not get out of work sometimes until 5:30 and cannot make an appointment on time
Dr. Clark added that she would like to be open two nights until 8:00 and be allowed to take emergency cases as needed. She would not want to be open more than two nights a week since that would take away time from her family. She said she was thinking of having hours after 6:00 on Wednesday nights and maybe another night as well.
3) Granting the variance would do substantial justice because:
We are a medical facility and cannot always guarantee patients will have problems at designated times slots
4) If the variance were granted, the values of the surrounding properties would not be diminished because:
They would not be diminished. We would only increase the values with our high criteria and well being for people.
5) Unnecessary Hardship
A. Owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship because:
i. No fair and substantial relationship exists between the general public
We are offering these services for the convenience of people in the community.
ii. The proposed use is a reasonable one because:
We are a medical facility and cannot always guarantee patients can leave work for appointments and when emergencies may arise.
B. Explain how, if the criteria in subparagraph (A) are not established, an unnecessary hardship will be deemed to exist, if, and only if, owing to special conditions of the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, the property cannot be reasonably used in strict conformance with the ordinance, and a variance is therefore necessary to enable a reasonable use of it.
This is only going to better the community by providing more opportune times for them to receive health care.
Alison asked the Board if they had any comments or questions relative to the testimony in the application.
Jeff Reder asked Dr. Clark if she had provided these services before coming to Hancock. She said she did have a practice in Illinois for 6 years. At that time her office was off site and she had to drive back to meet patients in emergency cases. She had also been available for some evening hours.
Ken Chester asked what her office hours were now. Dr. Clark said she doesn't have or advertise hours after 6:00 PM. She was waiting for the hearing to take place to get permission to have hours after 6:00 PM. Dr. Clark said she didn't want to make a routine of working every night past 6:00 PM. She just would like the option to fit in someone who may need to reschedule their appointment or to treat someone in an emergency situation.
Alison said Dr. Clark had mentioned Wednesday night as a good night for her to stay after 6:00 and asked if there were another night that she was considering. Dr. Clark said either Thursday or Friday night when her husband was at home to be with her son. Dr. Clark said she would like to offer health care classes on one of the nights which might include 6-7 individuals. She said the number of individuals would be determined by the number of parking spaces in her driveway.
Alison said the two requests need to be detailed for clarification. Dr. Clark stated she was proposing to:
1) Have office hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. but not later than 8:00. PM. And to offer health care classes on one of those nights.
2) Offer emergency care services when needed.
Alison noted that weekend hours had not been addressed. She reviewed the ordinance under Home Based Business and found there was no mention of days of the week that a business could be open. Dr. Clark said she would be open on Saturdays but would not be open later than 4:00 PM.
Alison asked the Board if they had any other comments or questions. Jeff had a question about Dr. Clark's statement in her application concerning property values and that they would only increase with the business. She said what she should have said was that she was offering a personal value for the community with her services. She didn't think property values would decrease or increase as a result of her business. There being no further comments or questions from the Board, Alison opened the hearing to the public for comments or questions.
Cindy Cadot of 6 North Road said there is enough of a buffer that she can't see the house and she didn't think she would be affected even if the hours were after 6:00 PM.
Mary Lou O'Neil said she would agree that she wouldn't be affected by the hours or patients coming or going.
Jackie Hill said she is fine with it and she lives right across the street.
There being no further comments or questions from the public, Alison closed the public portion and the Board moved into their deliberation by reviewing each of the five conditions.
1) Jeff said Dr. Clark has made it clear what her work schedule would be and she knows what she needs to run her practice.
2) Alison said in considering the Master Plan, it was the intention of the town to make services accessible to residents and this fits in with the interests of the town and Master Plan. Ken said with an average commute of one hour, it didn't seem unreasonable to have hours on Wednesday and Thursday nights until 8:00 PM to accommodate those patients.
3) Regarding substantial justice, Jeff read from the handbook on page 11-10 which states, "It is not possible to set up rules that can measure or determine justice. Board members must determine each case individually. Perhaps the only guiding rule is that any loss to the individual that is not outweighed by a gain to the general public is an injustice." Dr. Clark added she thought having the ability to care for patients in emergency situations would be doing substantial justice. Alison said they need to look at the gain to the general public. The consensus of the Board was considering the aging population of the residents, having this care available in town would be doing substantial justice.
4) The consensus of the Board was that property values would not be diminished with the hours of the practice.
5) Alison said a hardship could result if the variance was not granted and Dr. Clark might have to have her practice elsewhere. Ken added it might require Dr. Clark to turn patients away which would create a hardship for them. Alison said there has also been a precedent in town for medical practices. The consensus of the Board was that having the facility in the area was an advantage and the added hours and the option of emergency care would be a benefit to residents.
Alison asked if the Board had any other comments or questions. It was noted that even the closet neighbor can't see into the property and with multiple patients coming and going, there is no noise. And it was noted there was no opposition from abutters on the Home Based Business application.
There being no further questions or comments from the Board, Jeff moved that the application for a Variance under Article 22.214.171.124 be granted given that the applicant has met all five of the conditions as shown by the application and testimony provided. Ken seconded the motion and the Board voted unanimously to grant the application for a variance.
Alison advised Dr. Clark of the 30 day appeal period. Dr. Clark had one more comment about the size of the sign. She said it didn't seem clear from the ordinance what the size requirement was and she didn't want to have her signs made until she was sure they would be in compliance. Alison said the Board had discussed this issue and had agreed that it needs to be addressed. She said she would send Steve Froling an email.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8:15 P.M.