Zoning Board Approves Variances For Permitless Addition

A township couple’s quest to legitimize a home addition built in 2018 moved along May 4 with a variance approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Board members approved the three bulk variance applications – for sideyard setback, total area coverage and percentage of impervious surface – but they made it clear they weren’t happy about it.

The Drake Street home’s owner, Nilanjana Das, told the Board through her attorney that she and her husband relied on the contractor who built the 700-square-foot addition to the rear of their house to take care of all the necessary paperwork.

That he did not wasn’t discovered until 2021 by an appraiser when teh couple was applying to refinance their mortgage, the Board was told.

The appraiser contacted the township Building Department, and an inspector told them that they needed permits.

They applied for the permits, the Board was told, but their application was denied because they needed the bulk variances first.

When asked by Board chairman Robert Thomas to tell them something to justify approving the variances, the couple’s attorney, Peter Laub, said that no neighbors have complained about the addition in the five years since it was constructed.

To mitigate the impervious coverage issue, the couple agreed to install a dry well – basically an underground water storage area – Laub told the Board.

When it came time to vote on a motion to approve the application, several Board members expressed their feelings about the situation.

Board member Cheryl Bethune said she worried about setting a precedent “where a person can say I just forgot to get a permit and we’re allowing that, and people can see that.”

The Township needs to closely watch for unscrupulous contractors “who are not doing business correctly,” Board member Alan Rich said.

Board member Robert Shepherd said the case was very complicated.

“I think for these particular people, under these circumstances, what we are granting seems appropriate,” he said.

“Another good rule to remember is before you do anything, check with the town if you need anything,” Thomas said.

“I think he has learned his lesson,” Laub said.

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