Board of Zoning Adjustments, Feb. 19, 2014

BZATonight’s twice-rescheduled meeting included a simple-sounding residential addition on Devon Drive that was contested by a neighbor, then denied by the panel after a 40-minute deliberation, and with one abstention. Also on the docket, a commercial building addition in West Homewood’s Citation Court will bring the athletic apparel design company Weezabi to Homewood. Perhaps the strangest news is the continued absence of board member Valerie Askew, whose unexpected absence on Feb. 13 forced the meeting to be rescheduled tonight. Members talking after the meeting said they didn’t know Ms. Askew outside of official business and were surprised she hadn’t called with an explanation.

Members present:  Ross McCain, chairman, Trey Schaefer, Lauren Gwaltney, Phillip Foster, and Brian Jarmon.

Members absent: Valerie Askew and Hope Cannon.

Staff present: Board secretary Donna Bridges and Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Vanessa McGrath and Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance: 9

Approved:  Minutes of the Dec. 5, 2013 meeting were approved.

Denied: It was an awkward situation all around: Homeowners at 865 Devon Drive asked for a 4-ft. left side variance on their pie-slice shaped lot in order to build a rear addition that would extend very near the property line. Their left-side neighbors protested, saying that as much as they liked the applicants personally, such a variance would limit their own plans to add on to the back of their house–which is also on a pie-slice shaped lot. In fact, they had gone so far as to consult a real estate agent, who said houses built too close to neighboring houses were hard to sell and advised them to seek a denial.  Which they received, but only after an extended deliberation among the board members, with one member abstaining because of her friendship with the homeowner asking for the variance. The board at one point asked if the addition could be shifted to the right, but the homeowner declined to make concessions. 

Abstaining:  Lauren Gwaltney abstained from the vote because of her friendship with the applicants.

Approved:  The board approved a 3.8-foot right setback and .3-foot left setback variance for a second-story addition at 865 Forest Drive, which had been approved by the fire inspector.

Approved an outdoor stairway, with conditions: A homeowner at 100 Hanover Road asked for a 4.5-foot variance to place an outdoor stairway with a landing for access to a second-story garage addition that will be remodeled as a home office. Indoor access now is through a pull-down stair in the ceiling. The applicant offered to provide a landscape buffer between the stair and the next-door house, which the board accepted as a condition of the variance.

Approved a commercial building expansion: Property co-owner Claude Wood IV asked for variances of 19.7 feet on the right and 20-foot to the rear to expand a shipping and receiving area on a metal building at 121 Citation Court. There was some discussion about a fire inspector’s recommendation to furnish automatic sprinklers on the building. Mr. Cobb explained that although the building expansion doesn’t meet the 10,000 square-foot threshold for requiring sprinklers, the fire marshal said sprinklers would be advisable anyway.  The variance was granted without reference to sprinklers. In discussion, Mr. Wood said the building tenant — collegiate athletics apparel design and manufacturer Weezabi–was in the process of merging with the property ownership, and the building would be owner-occupied when that deal was complete.

This photo mock-up shows the remodeled detached garage and covered walkway connecting to the main house.

This photo mock-up shows the remodeled detached garage and covered walkway connecting to the main house.

Approved an unusual case at 1152 Iredell Circle:  The homeowners plan to build a second story on an existing detached garage and connect it to the main house by a covered walkway. As Ms. McGrath explained, however, once the garage is connected, it must meet different and more stringent code of the main house, explaining the rather extensive 14-foot and 2.8-foot variances requests for the building right and left sides. Mr. Cobb pointed out that in similar circumstances, other homeowners have just left a small gap between the roofs of the two structures to side-step the variance requirement. A case on Park Ridge Drive came to mind, he said.

Approved two cases on Roseland Drive: A representatives of Twin Properties asked for a 1-foot right setback variance for a second floor on a new house going up at 1618 Roseland Drive, a corner lot. The house is under contract to a buyer. In a second, more complex request, he asked for a variance on a second floor addition planned at 1701 Roseland Drive (if the foundation passes a structural engineering inspection). The Twin rep asked for variances allowing the house to be 10 feet instead of the required 20 feet from a neighboring house. He explained that the house next door had been built before the new codes requiring additional set-backs for second and third stories. This, and a cantilevered portion of the second story intruded into the clearance space available for Twin to build, unless a variance was granted. The board granted the requested .2-foot left setback variance for the first floor and a 6.5-foot left setback variance for the second floor.

The meeting was adjourned at around 7:20 p.m.

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