Zoning Board stumped by permit for uninhabited house

Oct 27, 2017

Is a house considered abandoned even if it is uninhabitable?

That's the question that Marion's Zoning Board of Appeals dealt with on Thursday, October 25. Nobody was entirely certain. Only after long discussion did they decide that, for one house at least, the answer was no.

Developer Christian Loranger did receive a special permit, which will allow him to use the property at 120 Front Street as a two-family residence.

Loranger sought a special permit, to keep the property permitted for a two-family dwelling.

He was fighting a zoning bylaw in Marion, which states that after two years of continual non-use, a residence is considered abandoned.

Loranger argued that particular circumstances had led to the house being uninhabitable, rather than abandoned. Namely, a fire that had taken place before he bought the property.

Loranger is attempting to tear down the burned house and rebuild a private residence for his family, which would have an apartment for his in-laws.

The house in question, built in the 1800s, was hit by a fire several years before Loranger bought the property in 2013, and has been uninhabited since the fire occurred.

Marion’s Planning Board opposed the request, stating that the bylaw was clear in saying that the property was abandoned and no longer qualified as a two-family residence.

Marc Leblanc, the chair of the Zoning Board, was stumped. “Does it count as abandonment if the property is uninhabitable?” he asked Building Commissioner Scott Shippey.

Shippey wasn’t sure either. “This is something to bounce off of Town Counsel,” he said.

Loranger claimed that the two-family status of the property is grandfathered, as there is evidence that the house was already a two-family structure in 1950, and even the 1800s.

Therefore, it predates the bylaw that declares it “abandoned.”

"This isn't a development," Loranger emphasized. "It's my own personal home, meant for my family. At some point, my in-laws will be moving in, and I'd like them to have their own apartment."

Loranger explained that the home he intends to build in the future will look like a single-family home.

Eventually, the ZBA agreed with him, stating that “uninhabitable” does not equate to “abandoned.”