By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON —If a home already has a bathroom, can another be added without a septic evaluation? The words "where none exists" have taken on a special meaning for the selectmen who challenged the town land use technician's interpretation of a 2015 zoning ordinance in just such a situation.
According to land use technician Annette Andreozzi, her interpretation of Article III A means that where a bathroom doesn't already exist, a person who wants to add one shall have a septic evaluation by a state certified examiner.
According to Selectman and Board Chairman Michael Jean, Article III A means a septic evaluation shall be done only in the instance where the first bathroom is being added to the structure, not additional ones.
The line at issue reads "Any structure that is being improved by adding a bathroom where none exists, adding a bedroom or whenever a structure is being converted from a seasonal to a permanent use, shall have the existing septic system evaluated..."
The fireworks began earlier this month when Andreozzi and the building inspector denied an unidentified homeowner's request to add a bathroom to an existing house. Andreozzi said she denied the request because of some other rulings on the subject made by the ZBA.
The homeowner was told he could appeal her ruling to the Zoning Board of Adjustments but apparently decided to go through former selectmen and excavating contractor Brett Currier to get the board of selectmen involved to expedite the matter.
In a meeting that was initially slated for a nonpublic session but Andreozzi requested it be open to the public, Jean told her that he "just wanted to make sure the laws are applied properly" and said the board took up the matter because there was a complaint.
Jean interprets the ordinance to mean that as long as there is a bathroom in the house, a second can be added. He said it's the number of bedrooms that decide whether or not a septic system evaluation should be completed.
When Andreozzi asked him directly if he was ordering her to reverse her decision, Jean hedged a bit and allowed for some public input that included many people, including Currier and Planning Board member Roy Buttrick saying that she miss-interpreted the plain language of the law and she should reverse her decision.
But former ZBA member and land attorney Carolyn Baldwin told selectmen were out of their jurisdiction. She, as well as current ZBA chairman Betty Hackett, cited N.H. RSA 677:33 that states the ZBA is the body that will "hear and decide appeals if it is alleged there is error in any order, requirement, decision, or determination made by an administrative official in the enforcement of any zoning ordinance adopted pursuant to RSA 674:16."
ZBA member Perry Onion said the state deliberately set up a system.
"If you can make a decision about this, you can make any decision," he said.
Selectman Marshall Bishop said he felt the ZBA should be the one to make the decision.
"We have a ZBA for a reason," he said.
The board decided by consensus to have the town administrator call the town attorney for an opinion on which board has jurisdiction.
Since it is too late for posting any new items onto this month's ZBA meeting, should the town attorney determine the homeowner needs to go to the Zoning Board, the earliest it could happen is the May meeting.