The Burke Development Review Board has upheld a decision by the town zoning administrator to deny a certificate of occupancy to the owner of a newly constructed home at 1248 Marshall Newland Rd.
The board took testimony Wednesday from property owner Kevin Lajoie who had challenged Zoning Administrator Michael Harris’s denial of the certificate for his home. The board then entered deliberative session before denying the appeal.
Lajoie had not commented publicly about the situation as it unfolded this spring and summer but on Wednesday he said plenty.
Lajoie admitted on the record that he had been living in the house without a certificate of occupancy since November on 2018 and that it was his mistake that led to the construction of his house without the proper set-backs.
“I screwed up,” said Lajoie.
Lajoie appealed to the town asking that it approve a variance for his new home - which does not meet the required front setback of 75 feet.
According to town records, Lajoie’s home is located 43 feet away from Town Highway 20, the crux of the town’s - and his neighbors’ concerns.
Officials say Town Highway 20 is a largely impassable, class 4 road formerly designated as an “ancient road.” But after changes in state law the town decided to preserve the road as a town highway in part because it provided access to a rear lot owned by Lajoie’s neighbor Eric Skalwold - who owns two properties at 1166 Marshall Newland Road.
Harris, in a letter to Lajoie, said no access permit had been issued for Lajoie’s property and that he was voiding his building permit application “as a result of inaccurate information that was provided by you to the zoning administrator at the time.”
Lajoie told the board in his appeal letter that he should be granted a variance because former Burke Zoning Administrator Brent Shafer came to the house site in June of 2018 after he received a complaint that he was building on the Town Highway 20 and OK’d the project to go forward anyway.
“He said, ‘I can’t give you the occupancy permit but just come in and change the numbers,’” said Lajoie at Wednesday’s meeting. “So I came in, I put 60 feet from here to the property line…He looked at it and he said keep on going. So I built the house. I’ve been living in it since November.”
In his June 27 letter to Lajoie refusing to grant the certificate of occupancy, Harris advised that, “this building CANNOT be occupied by anyone.”
Lajoie told the board that Shafer didn’t tell him there was still a problem until much later.
“Just before he got fired is when he finally said there was supposed to be a set back,” said Lajoie. “I needed a variance to go onto the road.”
But Lajoie also told the board Wednesday that the problem started when he designed his lot starting with wrong property line markers.
“So, basically, you drew this wrong in the very beginning,” said board member Scott Chappell
“Yes,” answered Lajoie.
Lajoie argued more than once that Shafer had approved the plan.
“He looked and I changed it and he looked and ok’d it,” said Lajoie.
But zoning administrator Harris said that wasn’t an excuse because Lajoie had access to maps and surveys that made it “very clear” what the required setbacks were.
“You still have the maps,” said Harris.
Board member Ed Guest said the situation was not going to be solved with the variance Lajoie was requesting.
“I don’t see anything in the bylaws that gives us authority to do a variance,” said Guest
Board member Herman Hoyt suggested that Lajoie and Skalwold - who also attended the Wednesday board meeting - try to work out solution themselves.
“You fellas can settle the problem,” said Hoyt, “Cooperate. There’s a lot of land between you and you.”
Lajoie can now appeal the board’s decision to the state environmental court.