Residents of Pocasset have raised concerns over construction of a new house on Circuit Avenue in Patuisset.
People living in the area have criticized the new structure as being out of step with the character of the neighborhood. Town officials, however, said the project is not only in compliance with zoning and conservation regulations, it is an upgrade from what had been there.
In a letter to the Enterprise, Circuit Avenue resident Ursula M. Garfield criticized the house currently under construction at 284 Circuit Avenue as being too large in comparison to other homes in the immediate area. Ms. Garfield said the new home is huge, much larger than typical homes in the area, which measure 600 to 2,400 square feet.
“It is more than just an eyesore... it is a slap in the face to the entire neighborhood,” Ms. Garfield wrote in her letter.
The assessors department said that the 284 Circuit Avenue property is owned by the Trustees of Alice W. Handy. The house being replaced measured 1,596 square feet.
Bourne building inspector Roger M. Laporte explained that the structure, large as it is, meets all of the town’s zoning regulations, so it did not have to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval.
The new house will be two stories and measure 4,624 square feet, Mr. Laporte said. The lot on which it will rest measures 1.43 acres.
People neglect to consider the overall size of the lot when they criticize the proposed structure, he said.
“What people don’t understand is that the lot seems small, but it’s really large,” he said.
Mr. Laporte pointed out that the new house is replacing an old one, and the previous house was more than 50 feet from the street. The new home will be a little more than 30 feet from the street. That, he said, moves it farther from resource areas such as vegetated wetlands and a coastal bank.
“The existing house was right on the resource area,” he said.
In addition to the front, the new house also meets zoning requirements for side and rear setbacks, Mr. Laporte said. The sides and rear have to be at least 15 feet from the property line. They measure 15-plus feet, he said.
Ms. Garfield described Patuisset as comprising approximately 100 homes “with a particular charm, where longtime residents and summer visitors share the small yards and beautiful views.” She said that she has owned her property in Patuisset for 28 years and when she bought it, there was an 800 square foot cottage there.
She said that she has added to the house over the years. The title card at the town assessor’s office shows that her house measures 1,900 square feet on a property measuring 3,790 square feet.
She acknowledged that there has been a number of renovation or new construction projects in the neighborhood in recent years. Most of them, she said, adhered to strict wetlands setbacks and most are built on an existing footprint. She said that is not true of the structure at 284 Circuit Avenue, which sits directly across the street from her home. The neighborhood “is repulsed by this project,” she said.
“We’ve listened for three months to everybody [who] walks by. Constantly, there’s not been one positive comment,” she said.
Bourne Conservation Agent Samuel O. Haines said the tear-down and rebuild project went before the Bourne Conservation Commission in March 2018. Mr. Haines acknowledged that the new structure is quite large. However, he said, it “meets the performance standards of the wetlands protection act.”
“Even though it’s much bigger, if it meets the performance standards, ConCom has to approve,” he said.
Mr. Haines also said that the property is within a flood zone, so the first floor must be above base elevation. He also noted that the house being built will be no closer to the resource area than the original house.
In addition, he said, the owner is installing a new septic system, so, from a pollution standpoint, the new structure will feature a significant upgrade from the previous system. He noted that there are huge houses going up all over town, but from the commission’s perspective, appearance is not a factor in granting approval.
“ConCom cannot look at the nature or character of the home, or the surrounding homes,” he said. “Only if it meets the performance standards.”
Carole B. Treen, also of Circuit Avenue, said that she lives on property her family has owned since the 1950s. Her property, located just up the road from where the new house is being built, measures 5,000 square feet and holds two small cottages, she said. She said she was shocked when she saw what was being built, and concurred with Ms. Garfield that the town is not safeguarding the area.
“The town needs to cherish it,” she said of the Patuisset neighborhood.
James F. Dineen lives half a dozen houses away from the new home. Mr. Dineen said his current house measures 1,800 square feet. The house had belonged to his parents, who used it as a summer home, but eventually had it winterized, he said. Prior to moving there, he said, he lived in a nearby cottage for 30 years. He, too, considers the new house to be “overly large for the area.”
“It would look like a beautiful house on a two-acre parcel,” he said.
Mr. Laporte agreed with Mr. Haines that the new house will be more conforming to conservation requirements. He also noted that because the house is located in a flood zone, it will need to be elevated. Regulations require that the first living floor be 16 feet above sea level, he said. The ground on which the property is located is 10 feet above sea level, he said, which means the first floor has to be elevated another six feet.
Presented with the findings of both Mr. Laporte and Mr. Haines, Ms. Garfield still took issue with the new structure making it through the approval process. She made it clear that her criticism was not of the homeowners, but with town officials who, she said, “did not protect her neighborhood.”
“There’s a charm to the neighborhood that we want to keep, and I guess one of the questions for the town would be, at what point does that come into play, because it doesn’t appear that it ever does,” she said.