Board of Zoning Adjustments, Aug. 1, 2013

BZAWith only four residential variance cases on the agenda,  two were hotly opposed by neighbors.  In a case on Ashley Circle involving an expanded garage to accommodate an RV, the animosity was such that the owner refused a compromise offered by the board then stormed out after the unfavorable vote. The second contested request, involving a lot partition on Wellington Road, was also denied, but in this case the owner offered to meet with his neighbors later and possibly return with a different request–and favorable vote.

Members present:  Valerie Askew, Jeffrey Foster, Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain and Trey Shaefer.

Members absent: Sandy Eichelberger,  Hope Cannon.

Staff present:  Donna Bridges, board secretary, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, professional staff of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Attendance:  18

Approved: Minutes of the June 6 and July 11, 2013 meetings.

Denied on a split vote*:  A request for a 7.5 ft variance to extend a garage to accommodate a new 38-foot-long motor home at 3510 Ashley Circle was denied following a stormy exchange between the applicant and a next door neighbor.

The neighbor said he was already concerned about the proximity of the current garage, which had been built more than a year ago to accommodate another motor home, but met the zoning code.  (Since that time, the neighbor said he had helped lobby to increase the required setback from 5 feet to 15 feet, and was pleased the code had been changed.)

The proximity of the garage to the neighbor’s house sparked arguments over a buffer that the neighbor had planted, but which the applicant said he had failed to maintain on her side (the owner’s side) despite his promise to do so.  Because of this, she refused his request to plant a buffer to camouflage the garage.  Mr. Foster asked the applicant if she would now proffer (made a binding offer) the buffer in order to get the variance, but she refused, saying she would only agree to extending her 5-foot fence along the property line.

Seven other neighbors present opposed the project during the public hearing.  [*The variance was denied on a 3-2 vote, with yes votes in the majority.  However, when only five of the seven members are present, BZA rules require a “super majority” of 4 votes to pass a variance.]

Voting no:  Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain.

Approved:  After a public hearing in which no one commented, the board voted to approve a setback variance of 19.5-feet for a new house to be built on the corner of Roseland Drive and East Linwood Drive at 1414 Roseland Drive.  

The applicant said a variance was the result of the corner lot needing to have more room on the side open to East Linwood, increasing the width of the house as it faces Roseland.

Approved:  Following a public hearing in which no one commented, the board approved a 16-foot variance from the required front setback for a new residence at 1618 Roseland Drive. 

Denied on a 3-2 split vote:  A request to split a large lot into two smaller lots at  1719 Wellington Road was turned down because the average size of the two resulting lots would not be close enough to the average lot size of surrounding properties, as required by the zoning code. The buyer is under contract for the property and sought the variance prior to closing, saying it had been erroneously marketed by his real estate agent as two lots and his plans to build a second house depended on subdividing the property.  A house in disrepair already sits on one side of the large lot.

However, three of the five board weren’t swayed by home buyer’s claim of financial hardship, and voted against the variance.

Deciding reasons:  Although the code allows lot size and width to vary 15% from the average without obtaining a variance, partitioning this lot would result in a greater deviation, requiring BZA permission. For example, the smallest allowable square footage under the 15% rule would be 14,300 square feet, but both lots after partitioning would be in the 10,000 sf range.  As for lot width, the 15% rule would allow a lot to be as narrow as 79 feet, but partitioning would result in one lot of 66.5 feet and one only 60.5 feet wide. Two of eight neighbors present to oppose the requested variance spoke, saying they didn’t want two such vastly smaller lots built in the neighborhood.

A majority of the board agreed, voting 3-2 against the request.  Afterward the potential owner told the neighbors he would like to work with them to iron out any problems and come up with a design they could accept.

Voting no:  Jeffrey Foster, Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain

The meeting was adjourned.

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