LACONIA — During most of its meetings this year, the Zoning Board of Adjustment has not been at full strength at the opening gavel, which can lead an applicant to delay consideration of a project for months.
A case in point is Paul Duggan’s request to add two apartments above a garage on his property at 221 Pleasant St.
Attorney Patrick Wood, who is representing Duggan, brought the request to the board at its July 5 meeting, but the five-member board only had four voting members present when the meeting began at 6:30 p.m.
Applicants were given the choice of having their projects considered by a four-member board or waiting until the August meeting. Since three votes are required for passage, chances for approval may decrease if the board is not at full strength.
Wood opted for the application to be heard at the next meeting. Board member Roland Maheu showed up 21 minutes later.
On Aug. 19, Wood was back before the board, but again, there were only four voting members. Faced with the same situation as a month earlier, Wood asked board Chairman Steven Bogert if he could be heard later in the agenda.
“I wonder if we could be delayed a little bit to see if we get a fifth member?” Wood asked Bogert.
“You get one shot,” Bogert replied.
He gave Wood the choice of postponing for a month or immediately starting a public hearing with only four voting board members present.
“I’m just pointing out that at the last meeting, you ended up with five as the meeting went on and we’re willing to proceed with five and not with four,” Wood said.
After talking to his client, Wood opted to delay consideration of his request until the Sept. 16 meeting. The fifth board member, Orry Gibbs, showed up about 15 minutes later.
“The difficulty has been getting the full board there on a timely basis,” Wood said Monday. “We're patient and we will meet with the board when it is full and make a presentation. It is what it is.”
Planning Director Dean Trefethen said it has been the board’s policy to make applicants decide whether to postpone or delay at the start of a meeting.
“It may be worth revisiting the policy to perhaps rearrange the agenda,” he said. “If another board member does show up, they’d have a full board. If the board does not have that discussion, I will suggest it to the board to consider.”
He said he doesn’t think tardiness or absenteeism is a problem.
“But we have had situations two meetings in a row where different people were late,” he said. “They used to meet at 7 but decided a year ago to go to a 6:30 meeting.”
The June board meeting also had only four voting members. In May, only three board members were present. A 3-0 vote was required for passage.
The March meeting also began with only four members present.