by Kevin Dicciani

The board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association unanimously approved at its May meeting two variances pertaining to residential properties – one having to do with a nonconforming fence at 8010 Winston Road, the other a residential use variance for a two-family household at 11 E. Highland Avenue.

Late last summer, the owners of the home at 8010 Winston Rd., Gary Fescine and Lisa Digiacomo, received a notice and fine from the Department of Licenses and Inspections that said their new fence, which they were installing to replace an older, dilapidated one, violated the city’s zoning code. Since the two had already installed more than a third of the fence, having spent more than $10,000 to do so, the couple filed a request for a variance to keep it as is.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections refused the original variance. The refusal noted that the fence was 6 feet in height, and that the city’s zoning code requires all fences in a residentially zoned district located nearer to the lot line than the required building setback or the actual distance from the lot line be no more than 4 feet tall; second, fences and walls over 4 feet in height and more than 50 percent opaque may not be installed within any sight triangle.

For support, Fescine and Digiacomo brought a second variance to the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee on Sept. 4, 2014, stating their reasons why they believed they should be allowed to keep their fence. They stated financial hardship, as reconstructing the $10,000 fence and making the alterations to the property as requested would cost upwards of $30,000; visual and auditory impairment, since the home’s position at a five-point intersection leads to light leaks from passing automobiles and an inordinate amount of noise from traffic; then, for privacy reasons, with people passing by on the sidewalk and across the street in the dog park, as well as the municipal trash trucks, which use the street as a staging area in the mornings and evenings and idle their motors before and after their shifts.

The LUPZ did not approve the variance at the time, but instead asked Fescine and Digiacomo to work with its members and the DRC to rework the parameters of their request to ensure that it is legally compliant.

At a CHCA meeting on Thursday on May 28, Larry McEwen, co-chair of the CHCA’s Development Review Committee and LUPZ, and vice president for the Physical Division, presented the board with the modifications all of the parties had agreed upon. McEwen said the new plans meet the intent of the zoning code, which includes safety and aesthetic concerns, and recognizes the new conditions of the site and the investment in the fence the owners have made to date.

McEwen presented a motion to support the variance under three conditions: (1) at the front of the property the height of the fence must be reduced from 6 feet to 4 feet, sans its archway at the entrance, while allowing the fence to remain fully opaque; (2) because of the site triangle and its provisions in the code, a diagonal must be created by connecting the first existing post back from the current corner near the alleyway to the first post on the corner of the front of the property, creating a triangle, and (3) to lower the fence from 6 feet to 4 feet in height between the adjoining properties.

The board voted unanimously to approve the motion.

The second variance concerned the property at 11 E. Highland Ave. and a request by its owner, Richard Snowden, to restore the building to its original use. McEwen said the two-story twin was part of a four-building series in which the other units were in their original layout – each floor having its own apartment and separate entrance, with eight units in total. The unit at hand had been connected and a previous owner had removed the second kitchen.

McEwen presented a motion to the board to support the variance, with the stipulations being: that there are two existing off-street parking spaces, one per unit; that there is a garage structure off the rear alley to reduce the parking impact on the street due to the additional unit, and that each unit have its own entrance.

The motion passed with a unanimous vote, with board member Richard Snowden abstaining.