Selectman gets OK to subdivide in historic village

AMHERST – Selectman Marilyn Peterman wants to sell her home in historic Amherst Village and move into a smaller house to be built at the back of her property on Amherst Street.

After a public hearing at Tuesday’s Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, it seems she will be able to do so.

In August, the Planning Board waived a subdivision regulation requiring 10 acres for a reduced frontage lot, giving Peterman the ability to build on a 2-acre lot. Peterman, who also serves on the Planning Board, did not vote on the matter.

Resident William Burris took issue with the waiver and went before the ZBA on Tuesday night to argue that the ZBA should hear his appeal of the decision.

Burris is a ZBA member, but he filed the appeal as an aggrieved party, saying that any decision regarding the town’s historic district affects him as a resident.

Burris argued that the Planning Board should have requested that Peterman apply to the ZBA for a zoning variance.

Attorneys present at the hearing argued that administrative appeals of Planning Board decisions can only be heard by the ZBA if the Planning Board makes a decision based upon the interpretation of an ordinance.

Ordinances were not discussed at the Planning Board meeting in question, according to the minutes. The board instead discussed its own subdivision regulations before deciding to waive the 10-acre requirement, which is allowable by law.

The ZBA voted 3-2 to deny the appeal on those grounds.

“There was no evidence that the waiver was done improperly,” said board member Doug Kirkwood.

ZBA member Robert Rowe voted against denying the appeal. He said he had read the minutes of the Planning Board’s meeting and believed there was not enough discussion before the board granted the waiver.

“I think they’re extremely casual in the way they’re voting,” he said.

He would have preferred that Peterman’s plan go back before the Planning Board so the board could outline its criteria for why it granted the waiver, he said.

Rowe said he wanted the Planning Board to be precise about why it is “allowing two acres instead of their minimum 10-acre requirement.”