A 10-case docket was reduced to 9 with a postponement and the rest decided quickly. The single denial was decided for variances to accommodate a two-story garage on Gran.
Members present: Brian Jarmon, Beverly LeBoeuf, Ty Cole, Matt Foley, and Andrew Marlin.
Members absent: Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Stuart Roberts (S), and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.
Staff present: Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and planner (part-time) Fred Goodwin, also of BEZ; and Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 23
*Note on procedure: By state law, zoning variances granted by the 5-member board require a super majority of 4 members voting in the affirmative. To keep business moving in case of absences, the law provides two supernumerary members (S) to sit in and vote if needed. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.
Carried over for a second time a house addition case on Dixon: The case at 109 Dixon Avenue was carried over to January.
Approved a front setback variance for a house addition on Bonita: The homeowner at 202 Bonita Drive wanted a covered carport at the front right of the house convenient to the entrance, which would push the front line of the house 15 feet closer to the street and 4 feet into the required front setback (of 49 feet from the street). There were no speakers at the hearing and no stated hardship for waiving the regulation except the convenience and security of having a carport versus having none, which is the current case. In discussion, the
contractor said the protruding carport would be balanced on the left side with a terrace, with stairs and planters and a reconfigured walkway to the drive on the right (see drawing). Neighbors on the carport side had expressed no objection, and with few questions asked, the board voted approval.
Approved a right setback variance for a substantial front addition on Woodfern: Although most of the addition planned at 1617 Woodfern Drive will be added to the front–bringing it forward to the street by 15 feet–it is only a short section of the addition on the right side that extends into the setback, by 4.2 feet. The laundry room already juts into the setback by that amount, and the addition will merely extend it another 12 feet along the side of the house. The board was told the front gable would remain. There were no speakers or objections submitted on the case, and the board approved it unanimously.
Approved continuing a rear setback variance to allow a house addition on Hampton: With one exception, a homeowner at 505 Hampton Drive didn’t leave anything to chance in making her argument for a 15-foot rear setback variance to rebuild most of an existing deck and enclose it under a metal roof. (The rebuilt deck will have the same footprint as the existing open deck, which doesn’t require the same setback.)
The homeowner pointed out several hardships that prompted the decision to rebuild and roof the deck, the first being the shallow lot, which makes privacy a concern. Others were 1) Exposure to sun, making the open deck difficult to use during the summer; 2) A sloping rear yard difficult to use without a deck; 3) An effort to divert rainwater from the house, which is already subject to some flooding because of topography; and 4) The intention to use some existing deck support structures, instead of building from scratch. In addition, she produced four letters of support from surrounding neighbors.
However, before the approving vote, Mr. Foley noticed that the proposed roof overhang was a foot over the 1.5-foot limit, which the homeowners proffered to change to meet regulations.
Denied 2-3 a setback variance for a two-story garage planed behind a house on Gran: Homeowners at 312 Gran Avenue, which backs up to Shades Cahaba Elementary, were thwarted in their plan to build a two-story garage within the 10-foot property line setback, in part because the structure would be built anew and not to match the former garage footprint. The house was recently built after the original house and 2-story garage were torn down. Now a new 26′ X 25′ garage is planned 4.5 feet inside the setback to avoid crowding a backyard deck. Mr. Cole, however, called the hardship self-inflicted due to poor space planning on the part of the contractor. The contractor replied that the deck was already “sized down” and was sited to avoid electrical and sewer lines, an argument that didn’t sway the board given the size and height of the proposed garage. It will be two stories, both with heat and air, and attic storage. The vote was 3-2 in favor, which failed the required 4 votes to approve a variance. The contractor can appeal the decision in court, return with a different request, or build within the required setbacks.
Voting no to the variance: Ty Cole and Brian Jarmon
Approved a left side setback variance for an addition on West Linwood: The planned addition at 210 West Linwood Drive is a master bedroom suite and laundry in the rear left side of the property. The lot is 55.8 feet wide, or just inches over the 55-foot lot-size limit that requires wider side setbacks of 10 feet each (an accepted hardship in a previous case). The architect asked to build 2 feet into the left side to make the rooms more usable, he said, and to avoid the existing garage. In discussion, Mr. Cole pointed out that the addition, as designed, makes the garage virtually unusable for parking a car. He asked, with a smile, if the plan was to keep the garage, or was the garage only useful as a way of getting the 2-foot variance? He was assured the garage would remain; it is being used as an office. The architect also produced letters of support from neighbors on either side, and the case was approved.
Approved a right side setback variance for a house addition on Westover: Architect Joe Ellis spoke at the case at 305 Westover Drive and the one following. In this case, the plan is to add a 1-story bedroom and bath addition on a side that is already nonconforming by 2.6 feet; the addition would add several inches to that nonconformity for a total required variance of 2.45 feet. With no objections from the board or audience, the request was approved.
Approved an existing setback variance for a house addition on Malaga: Mr. Ellis had only slightly more trouble winning an approval for a 4.1-foot left setback variance at 214 Malaga Avenue, where an already non-conforming rear porch is being enlarged, and the steps removed and deck railed in. In discussion, Mr. Cole asked if the homeowners would also agree to remove an existing side deck and awning. The homeowners having been called and giving their permission, the vote was unanimous to approve.
Approved a right setback variance for an addition on Le Jeune: This house was heard in an April 2016 case. The designer spoke on behalf of the plan for an addition at 309 Le Jeune Way, including a single story rear addition of the kitchen and roof that extends the house line for 5 feet, 9 inches before the wall is stepped back to within the setback. A variance was approved in April 2016 for a different plan under a different owner, who changed her mind about renovating. With no objections from the board or audience, the vote was unanimous to approve.
Approved a variance to allow a new house to be built 5 feet closer to the street on South Lakeshore: The only speaker of the evening was for this case at 1721 South Lakeshore Drive, and his interest was not to object but to learn more about the plan for the lot across from the Homewood soccer fields. The owners responded that they encountered rock while leveling the back of the half-acre + lot and are asking to build 5 feet closer to the street than the required 35-foot setback. Of those 5 feet over the line, four feet would be an open front porch and only 1 foot would be the house proper. Board members asked few questions and, it being the last of nine cases, voted to approve.
Before adjourning the board approved the 2018 calendar showing regular meetings the first Thursday of each month, except July and November.