TRURO — The planning board has approved a revised plan to demolish a seaside cottage colony in the National Seashore and replace it with a 4,789-square-foot home proposed by the unidentified new owner of the 6.3-acre site overlooking the Atlantic.
But not all board members are happy with the Aug. 24 decision.
“It is not consistent with the prevailing character and scale of the neighborhood or the stated purposes of the Seashore District,” said Vice Chair Richard Roberts, who noted that the proposed house would be three times larger than the two adjacent houses and double the size of the houses within 400 yards of it.
Roberts said the only building of comparable size in the area was the Highland House Museum. He was joined in opposition to the plan by board member Jack Riemer.
Voting to approve the site plan were Chair Anne Greenbaum and members Ellery Althaus, Bruce Boleyn, and Caitlin Townsend, providing the needed four votes. Paul Kiernan, who had been vocal in his opposition during four months of hearings on the plan, was not present for the vote.
The approval followed a series of meetings between the board and attorney Ben Zehnder, representing Outer Shore Nominee Trust. Zehnder put off asking for a vote on the plan until he was certain various changes would win enough support.
The plan now goes to the zoning board of appeals, which is expected to take up two requests for special permits in late September. One is for increased gross floor area and the second is for demolition of five of the six former Hi-Land View cottages, construction of a new single-family dwelling, and conversion of a nonconforming cottage into an accessory pool house in the Seashore District.
The new owner, who bought the property for $5 million last summer, remains unknown. Boston attorney Rachel Kalin, as a trustee for Outer Shore Nominee Trust, has been taking the proposal through permitting.
Outer Shore Nominee Trust also bought a nearby property at 23 Coast Guard Road last summer, paying $2.9 million. The house on that property is undergoing a major renovation.
Several tweaks had been made during the four-month hearing process, including reducing the initial 5,100-square-foot house size — a sticking point for some board members — by a little over 300 square feet.
Truro’s zoning bylaw allows a gross floor area of 4,260 square feet on a six-acre lot in the National Seashore District. Up to an additional 1,000 square feet may be allowed by special permit from the ZBA.
Other changes in the original plan included lowering the height of the house by almost six feet to 16.75 feet above mean grade, removing retaining walls, adjusting the use of fill, and moving the planned location of a garage further away from an abutting property.
The flat roof of the house will have plantings to further blend the house into its surroundings, according to Zehnder.
Zehnder said the design changes reflected his client’s efforts “to make sure this project has as little impact as possible, both visually and physically, on the landscape.” Lowering the height greatly reduced its visual impact, he said.
But Roberts questioned the actual footprint of the project, saying that the 4,789 square feet of living space didn’t include areas like porches and decks, which would bring the square foot total to 8,043.
“And that doesn’t include the proposed garage, cottage six, and the basement crawl space,” Roberts said.
But Greenbaum argued that the proposed development is on a much larger lot than the neighboring houses, and that the new owners have the right to develop their land.
Town Planner Barbara Carboni, who also serves as land use counsel, told the board that the applicant, over the course of several hearings, had “made a good faith effort” to address the board’s concerns. The proposed height of 16.75 feet above average grade “is an astonishingly low profile,” Carboni said.
Riemer remained troubled by the size of the proposed project.
“We’re building houses that people in their wildest dreams wouldn’t be able to afford to live in,” he said. “We are stewards of the Seashore District and that weighs heavily on the decision I make tonight.”