Board of Zoning Adjustments, Dec. 5, 2013

BZAThree of the four cases on tonight’s agenda came about as a result of a routine application for a certificate of occupancy (CO) for a newly built house.  By taking a closer-than-usual reading of the building code, city inspections staff found that this house–and indeed most houses in Homewood–are in violation of a code that restricts even air conditioning units from occupying the setback areas around the house. Specifically, the setback area “must be open to the sky” except for plantings, as

NOT SO FAST, BUDDY.   That new air handling unit  just might be violating a residential set-back restriction.

That new air handling unit just might be violating a residential set-back restriction.

the code reads.  The CO was not issued without a variance and several contractors, worried by the potential effect of this new reading, appeared before the board for a variance, and answers.

As most houses in Homewood have HVAC units encroaching on the side setback (they usually have 5 feet on one side and 9 feet on the other for the driveway), it appears that there will be many more of these cases until the code can be changed, should the city decide to do so.

Members present:  Valerie Askew, Hope Cannon, Sandy Eichelberger, Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain, and Trey Schaefer.

Members absent:  Phillip Jeffrey Foster

Staff present:  Donna Bridges, board secretary, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath – Building, Engineering and Zoning Department.

Audience attendance:  10, including three Boy Scouts observing the meeting.

Minutes approval carried over: The minutes of the Nov. 7, 2013, board meeting were not ready.

All votes were unanimous.

Approved:  A 3.75-ft. setback variance for 736 Saulter Lane to rebuild an existing carport and sunroom on the same footprint, which is also non-conforming.  The new construction is due to damage from a roof leak.

Approved three variances for placement of air conditioning units:  The board approved 4-ft “accessory structure” setback variances for HVAC units at 1512 Oxmoor Road, 303 Kenilworth Drive, and 1422 Melrose Place.  While this has been a non-issue in the past because HVAC locations weren’t required to be shown on plans or permit requests, a request for a CO for the Kenilworth location brought it to light, see above.  The contractor in the Kenilworth case is also building the house at the Oxmoor Road location, and talked with another contractor who is building the Melrose location.  With all three houses either under construction or already permitted, the contractors decided to come before the board and ask that all three be given variances and to air their concerns about the new restriction and other projects in Homewood.

Mr. Cobb had done a quick drive-through and noted that almost all houses in Homewood have the HVAC sitting inside the 5-foot setback, or area that is to remain clear.  Due to constraints on how the unit must be placed in proximity of the air handlers, moving them to the backs of the houses isn’t feasible and the vast majority of houses would have to ask for and be granted variances if to even replace the HVACs.

This is an item that the city inspections department and the contractors are going to work together to reword and submit for approval a change so that the board will not be backlogged with cases on this item alone and cause disruption and problems for people having to wait to replace heating or air conditioning units during bad weather.

Dates of the BZA meetings for 2014 were set for the first Thursday of each month, except for the July meeting which will be on July 10.


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