Hingham officials express concern over large-scale homes
Residents and Planning Board members expressed concern about the influx of large-scale homes in Hingham during the Planning Board meeting on Monday night. More than thirty people dialed into the meeting when they learned that a controversial plan for a new home in the Crow Point neighborhood was on the agenda.
“I am disappointed with the amount of paving, disruption and walls that are going on this site,” said Planning Board Member Judy Sneath, “especially given the whole conversation about the historic nature of the house that was there before and the neighborhood.”
The proposal for 29 Cushing Avenue calls for the razing of existing structures and the construction of a new single family residence. The home would include a covered porch, detached garage, in-ground pool and extensive hardscaping like patios, walkways, stairs and retaining walls on a lot that is approximately 16,000 square feet, or 1/3 of an acre. “This is so over-kill for the piece of property that it’s on,” said neighbor Deborah Avila of 25 Cushing Avenue. “I think that it would be wonderful if they were on an acre of land. But, the fact is that all of this will take place thirty feet from our house.”
With most new houses, especially those built speculatively to sell on the market, the trend in Crow Point has been to build as big as you can within lot size and zoning restrictions. As a result, many of the homes may be out of scale with their neighbors. During the Planning Board review, members discussed the idea of a town-wide ban on these types of large residences.
“I certainly would reiterate what Judy (Sneath) said here,” commented Planning Board Member Kevin Ellis. “I hope that it is somewhat of a wake-up call for the residents of the town to consider whether or not they want this kind of development to happen and what we can do about it in the future. I do have big concerns about projects this size.”
A change in the Zoning Bylaw which dictates home-building rules would require a 2/3 majority vote at Town Meeting and could dramatically change what the town’s neighborhoods look like decades from now. Currently the town’s zoning rules limit the size of home construction by setting a maximum building height of 35 feet with a limit of 2-1/2 stories. Setbacks from the property line which determine the distances between homes are also regulated.
Although the Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan review with partial waivers for the raze and rebuild of the single family residence and the associated site disturbance, existing regulations may require that the owners of 29 Cushing Avenue go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for final approval. “My understanding is that some variances are going to be required, whether for height (of the residence) or the height the retaining walls,” said Michael Mullaley of 14 Cushing Avenue.
After the vote, Planning Board Chair Bill Ramsey explained next steps. “When the Building Commissioner reviews the plan and looks at the issuance of the building permit, he then would decide if variances were needed,” he said, “and then that would go to the Zoning Board of Appeals.” The ZBA met remotely on Tuesday, May 5th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss a Habitat for Humanity project on Whiting Street. They could meet again as early as Tuesday, May 12th. To sign up for meeting notifications, please visit the Town of Hingham website at https://www.hingham-ma.gov/list.aspx.