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Proposed pool house raises big concerns on Ridge Road

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM How big is too big? The Planning Board and concerned residents of Ridge Road discussed this issue during a public hearing last Wednesday.

Scott Bergman, of 855 Ridge Road, came before the Planning Board seeking a special permit to build a cabana for a pool he wants to place behind his home.

Neal Geary, applicant representative for Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction Inc., outlined the plan for the board. The cabana would be located 25 feet from the edge of the side yard and 25 feet from Bergman's home. Of the building's total 923 square feet, 473 would be enclosed for bathrooms, changing rooms and a small kitchenette. The other 450 square feet would be a patio covered by the building's roof. The roof itself would be 21 feet high 11 feet of which would be visible from road level.

Additionally, the cabana would have a basement to store pool equipment and supplies.

"We want to keep in the design of the main house," Geary explained. "The primary concerns on Ridge Road are privacy and having a nice view. Mr. Bergman is committed to keep the best views as open as possible." Geary said Bergman has already sent letters to the neighborhood, asking for their input or concerns on the proposed project.

The neighbors that came to the public hearing shared their concerns out loud.

With the maximum size on accessory buildings limited to 625 square feet with a roof height of 16 feet, size was one of two major concerns brought up.

"At this size, it's no longer a cabana, it's a pool house," John Wesolowski said. He brought up possible drainage issues and how additional trees may need to be cut down before stating, "This lot was too small for a house and this is perpetuating the problem. The house has clearly expanded from its original size and it's not conducive to the neighborhood."

Carol Lynch said she echoed Wesolowski's sentiments. "It's not in harmony with the neighborhood. The house is huge, this building will be huge it's near to the size of the original house plan."

While there is no pitch requirement for roofs in Wilbraham, having 11 feet of the roof apparent at street level bothered some neighbors.

"I live two houses down so I get what is called the broad view," Susan Long told the Planning Board. "I can gauge in my vista what height requirements look like. This isn't about views, though, it's about rules. The more we add on, the more rules we break."

Long said looking at Bergman's home reminds her of looking at a convention center.

"The house is new and big and has caused a lot of commotion," Planning Board member Eric Fuller said to Bergman, "and now you're adding more to it. You're 50 percent over on size and 30 percent over on height. That doesn't show you're being sensitive to their views."

Planning Board member Ted Stevenson said, "You cannot justify a 923 square foot cabana. I have a pool and I have an eight by eight and an eight by 10 and that's plenty. The basement of your house has everything imaginable in it why can't you use that?"

Geary replied that the current trend is all about outside entertainment.

Bergman said twice a year he hosts functions for the Shriner's Hospital for about 50 to 70 people and that he thinks it would be nice to have outdoor restrooms for them. All his visitors would park at his office at the center of town.

When Lynch brought up the rumor of this pool and building going in because Bergman is running a business out of his house, Bergman said, "I've been working out of my house for years. This is for personal use."

Once the hearing had ended, Planning Board Chair Dick Butler said, "I think we should deny this request and make them come back with something that is in compliance." Doing that, however, would mean he could put the cabana anywhere on the property he wanted, Butler added.

"We haven't been very amenable to oversize accessory buildings in the past," Fuller stated. "We should easily deny this request as presented."

The board unanimously declined the application for the special permit.