Carriage House Addition

Front Elevation

Front / Street View

Ground was broken last week at 20 Central St. here in Topsfield so that D.W. Philpot & Co. can start building a new addition for the client(s) – a thriving family with THREE kids. To say they’ll benefit from some additional space is indeed an understatement. The project consists of removing a dilapidated garage structure (sitting on a crumbling foundation) and replacing it with a (1) car garage with a ground floor laundry area, 3/4 bath, and a closet, as well as a fully finished family room up on the second floor – complete with a fireplace. The plan the was to connect to the existing house with a small breeze-way. Once we went through the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) process – that breeze-way Entry area got a little smaller…

Site Plan

Site Plan / Diagram

To give a little background, the house is in a great, tightly knit part of downtown Topsfield – built in an era and location where the density was higher than is now typically found in the surrounding residential districts. Any work done would require at the very least, a ‘Finding’ from the Topsfield ZBA as the existing lot, side yard set-backs, frontage, and front-yard set-backs are all ‘non-conforming’. The lot is undersized per current zoning laws; the side-yard set-back is encroached upon with both the existing garage, as well as the new structure (more on that in a moment); the frontage required in the By-Laws is 100′-0″ – we had 75′-0″ to work with; and the front yard is far closer to the property line than the current requirement of 20′-0″. After studying the Zoning By-Laws, I thought I had a good understanding of what we needed to present to ask for a Variance to get just a little closer.

Steel Frame (in red)

I presented the original plan – which would have encroached on the side-yard set-back by about 2′-0″ more to try and ‘pry open’ a little space between the new structure and the existing house for an entry that felt generous – without being over-the-top. Bottom line was that given we were already in the side-yard set-back area, the ZBA was not willing to let us get any closer, as there was not a ‘hardship’ – which given how the By-Laws are written, would be required to be proven to be granted a Variance. We were constrained on all sides – including the backyard area by both the septic system as well as wetlands / river-front areas. Fast forward (1) month where I presented the adjusted site plan where we kept the same 7.2 foot side-yard set-back and we were granted a finding to proceed. It meant that the breeze-way got a little smaller and the front facade of the garage got pushed back a bit. Still a great design – and perhaps keeps with the scale of a number of the other spaces in the existing, lovely house. In the end we had to go through the ZBA process, the DEP & Conservation Commission presentation / approvals process, file a Deed Restriction for the Board of Health – as well as file the newly minted Site Survey at the Registry of Deeds. With these details squared away the plans were completed and off they went to sub-contractors for pricing, and stamped & submitted copies went in for the building permit.

With the foundation now underway, the owners are busy making final finishes selections. In the next 2 weeks the foundation should be wrapped up, back-filling complete, and framing started. Just in time for winter it seems – though with NOAA’s forecast for a warmer than average early winter here in New England – maybe we’ll get a little lucky. One item to note is the 2nd floor fireplace – in that we designed a steel frame to support a concrete slab at the second floor, to allow the masonry to start from there – and not extend down to grade – saving a lot of space at the first floor. The plan is to erect the fireplace & chimney structure and let things settle a bit prior to framing the floor tight to the reinforced masonry structure. With a design that has a raised hearth extension, any future signs of movement can be mitigated with a good, obscured control joint between finishes.