As Mashpee Cottages Turn To Mansions, How Big Is Too Big For A Little Lot?
By: Elsa H. Partan
For the third time since 2009, the owners of a small waterfront property near the Popponesset Inn are challenging a town decision preventing them from tearing down a 975-square-foot cottage and building a larger house in its place. The property, at 4 Cross Street in the Rock Landing Park neighborhood, backs up to Nantucket Sound. It is owned by Janet E. Krock and family members.
The Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals denied Ms. Krock’s request to build a 3,000-square-foot house on the 5,000-square-foot lot for the first time in February 2009. The ZBA denied it again in June 2009. The latest denial came in September.
Each time, Ms. Krock appealed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Land Court, and each time, the land court sent the matter back to the ZBA for further consideration. In a filing on December 4, Ms. Krock has again asked the land court to intervene to allow her to build a larger house. The ZBA noted the arrival of the new court filing at its meeting Wednesday but made no further comment.
“The proposed new dwelling would be consistent with the character and size of the homes in the neighborhood, which are situated on similarly undersized lots,” the filing states. “The property…cannot be used to its fair market value without a dwelling that is consistent with those in the neighborhood,” it states. The court filing was prepared by Gary S. Brackett of Worcester, Ms. Krock’s attorney in the matter.
According to the Town of Mashpee assessor’s database, the land is worth $1.9 million while the 975-square-foot ranch house is worth $70,000. The house sits next to a private path to the beach, access to which requires that a visitor show identification, according to a sign at the start of the short walkway. Ms. Krock also owns 2 Cross Street, according to the Town of Mashpee assessor’s online database.
The house at 4 Cross Street is one of a few vestiges of the old cottage development in an area now filling up with highly styled mansions. Because of the small lots, many of the new homes have been built tall instead of wide, some with two and a half or three levels. The house proposed by Ms. Krock would also be two and a half stories.
Across the street sits an example of the old cottage style. At 5 Cross Street, a 924-square-foot, one-bathroom Cape built in 1940 has a sign in the window that it is for sale by owner. It sits on a lot of a bit more than 8,000 square feet, a property that was combined with another one, according to the assessor’s database.
Next door sits an example of the new style. At 10 Cross Street, a four-bedroom, four-bathroom house of 2,932 square feet replaced a cottage torn down in 1996, the assessor’s database said. It sits on a lot of 5,500 square feet.
The lot sizes in the neighborhood of 5,000 square feet were created before 1960, when Mashpee first passed zoning laws, according to Mashpee Town Planner F. Thomas Fudala. Current zoning requires a lot to be at least 40,000 square feet.
Attorney Kevin M. Kirrane, who has practiced in Mashpee since the mid-1970s, represented Ms. Krock in her first application to the ZBA. He did not want to comment on the case specifically, but said it is unusual for the state land court to send a decision back to a town ZBA.
“In most cases, the court either upholds or overturns the board,” he said. “They must feel that there is some additional language that they need to come to a conclusion.”
Mr. Kirrane said that tear-down requests are increasingly common in the Rock Landing neighborhood and elsewhere.
“This neighborhood is changing. It has changed a lot over the last five to 10 years. It used to be a small cottage-type neighborhood, and it is being slowly transformed into a year-round community,” he said.
According to the ZBA denial dated September 26, the owners of 10 Cross Street, Jonathan and Kim Jodka, were among the neighbors who opposed the proposed change to Ms. Krock’s property. In a letter, the Jodkas raised concern about the fact that the new house would cover 30 percent of the lot rather than the current 19.5 percent. They also expressed concern about the stability of the coastal bank during construction of the new house.
“Janet and Barry Krock should also acknowledge that the lot at 4 Cross Street does not extend to the bluff edge, therefore there should be no development of the land owned by Rock Landing Park Association between their lot and the bluff edge,” the letter states. “We feel this needs to be noted since they have not respected these legalities with regards to their other property on Cross Street.”
Other abutters spoke at the public hearing in September, according to the ZBA denial. Jeremy Carter of 7 Pine Avenue said he was concerned that the proposed house would negatively impact views from the beach and abutting properties and that a 30 percent lot coverage is unreasonable. Abutters Paul Dardano of 14 Rock Island Road and James Collins of 6 Rock Island Road agreed that 30 percent lot coverage was too much, the document said.
Many neighbors said Ms. Krock has a right to build a new house on her property in principle, but that the proposed house is too big.
“These are small lots and have already been, in a few instances, overdeveloped and oversized,” wrote neighbors Dee and Henry Sockbeson of 294 Shore Drive in a letter to the ZBA. “This creeping size must stop at some point and we believe that point has been reached.”
In its September decision, the ZBA stated that the substantially larger house will negatively impact stormwater drainage and will have “visual impacts” for abutters and residents of the neighborhood. “Finally, the location of the proposed new structure encroaches on a sensitive coastal bank area and existing pedestrian pathways, in violation of the Mashpee By-laws, causing an adverse impact on nearby waterways and sensitive environmental interests,” the ZBA wrote.
An attorney for the Krocks did not return a message this week seeking comment.
Several residents in the neighborhood likewise did not return calls.
(Additional reporting provided by Brian H. Kehrl.)
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