Board of Zoning Adjustments, March 6, 2014

BZAIt’s spring remodeling season with a heavy schedule of 11 variance requests contributing to a 2+ hour meeting. And while most cases were dispatched with little comment, two were unusually contested, with one neighbor crying foul on city procedure and another claiming damage to her car after she “tried out” a neighbor’s pea gravel driveway.
Members present: Valerie Askew, Hope Cannon, Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster, Lauren Gwaltney and Trey Schaeffer.
Members absent: Ross McCain, chairman
Staff present: Donna Bridges, board secretary, Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning staff.
Audience attendance: 26
All votes were unanimous unless otherwise noted.
Approved:  The panel okayed variances on the left (6.1 feet) and rear (5 feet) for the existing residence and a right variance (7.1 feet) for a second-floor addition at 209 Clermont Drive.
Approved:  A .5-foot left side variance was allowed for a second floor addition to a house at 1527 Sutherland Place.
Building Up--Homeowners are in a spring fever to set second floors atop Homewood cottages. The owner of this house on the corner of Ridge Road and Roseland must get setback variances on all four sides, plus furnish the entire building with sprinklers, before moving forward with the plan. This case was carried over to the April meeting.

Building Up–Homeowners are in a spring fever to set second floors atop Homewood cottages. The owner of this house on the corner of Ridge Road and Roseland must get setback variances on all four sides, plus furnish the entire building with sprinklers, before moving forward with the plan. The case was carried over to the April meeting.

Carried Over:  The BZA postponed hearing a case in which the homeowner wanting to add a second floor to a corner house at 300 Ridge Road is asking for variances on all four sides. The owner wasn’t present and his father-in-law’s attempt to explain the case and construction procedures fell short, prompting the carry-over. (There was some confusion over a statement that the second floor would be “supported separately from the house” and not using the first floor as a foundation.) Also, the city’s fire marshal has required full sprinklers throughout the entire structure in order to approve the variance.
Approved:  Front setback variances on two sides of a corner house at 421 Windsor Drive, (7 feet on Windsor side and 4 feet on Windsor Terrace side). The variance was required for a substantial roof repair, first to fix a water leak and also to correct inadequate roof support for original dormers, which were collapsing. In the process of redesigning the roof, the owner also wants to enclose a porch to enlarge the family room.
Approved:  A 4-foot right side setback variance was allowed to enclose a sun porch and convert to a bedroom and bathroom at 406 Kenilworth Drive.
Approved:  A variance was allowed at 200 Morris Boulevard on the left side setback (3.5 feet) in order to expand a master bedroom and bath into two offset areas and “square off” the side of the house.
Approved:  An 18.4-foot front building setback was approved to enclose an existing porch to enlarge the kitchen and add a bedroom and bath at 1424 Melrose Place.
Approved after long deliberation over a neighbor’s objections:  A request for a variance to totally enclose a partially enclosed porch in order to enlarge a dining room at 1541 Wellington View Road turned into a 45 minute trial on the city’s variance application procedure. The homeowner had previously received permits to repair rotted rafters and then to raise the ceiling in some rooms. A Homewood building inspector, noticing work had also begun on the porch enclosure advised the contractor to obtain an additional permit. That done, a neighbor at 1533 Wellington View Road, who is an urban planner by trade, took notice and came to the inspector’s office to look at the plan. At the public hearing, he said he was neutral on the actual variance request but had come to voice concerns about the city’s inspection procedure. His concerns, which he had printed and given to the board, were threefold:
  1. The requirement for hearing notification wasn’t fulfilled as the yellow sign posted n the property kept falling over and the city didn’t ensure it was always visible;
  2. The homeowner wasn’t demonstrating a justifiable “hardship” as required by law to warrant a variance to the building setbacks. Wanting a larger dining room was in fact a self-imposed hardship, he said.
  3. The application was incomplete as it didn’t include an elevation drawing showing how the competed project would look.
The neighbor said he felt the request “did not meet the letter of the law.”
City staff and Ms. Cannon answered each objection in turn:
  1. The city cannot monitor signs 24/7 to ensure that they are always upright and totally visible, as weather and other outside events can interfere.
  2. A drawing “may” be submitted at the time of the application but can also be provided at the hearing, she said. Also, a picture was presented at the public hearing taking place.
  3. The board alone, not the city staff, was charged with determining if a hardship exists in each case.

The objecting neighbor noted that the board had already set a precedent for granting variances based on homeowner preference, not hardship. In the case before the board, he said there were plenty of other places to build an enlarged dining room. The homeowner, then, stated that a variance would still be required if the expansion were moved to the side of the house and that floor plan would mean having a bedroom between the kitchen and dining room. If moved to the rear, because of sloping ground, the dining room would be on the basement level, requiring stairs to the kitchen.

In response, the objecting neighbor said the owners should perhaps consider building a new house – even a “Taj Mahal” — on the vacant lot they own between their two residences. The owner said that was not part of the present plan.
Carried over a request for detached covered parking:  A request for an 8-foot variance for a detached covered parking area at the rear of 218 Broadway Street was postponed because the fire marshal deemed the proposed cover a fire hazard when considered with all the other wood additions in back of the house. The homeowner was absent and, although the board said the parking pad alone didn’t require a variance, his representative opted to discuss the situation further with the owners and fire marshal.
Approved the final step in a long-running case:  A variance to shift a lot line 10 feet at the juncture of 1606 Wellington Road and 1608 Wellington Road — both owned by the same person–was approved. The homeowner is building a house at 1606 and wanted an existing stone wall to be on that side of the lot line. The Planning Commission had agreed to the resurvey at its Tuesday meeting, but pending BZA approval for reducing the total area of the 1608 lot to below the required average for the street. This case, including its unusual front-yard swimming pool, has been in hearings since December 2012 and March 2013.
Approved a gravel driveway following an unusual objection:  A request for a variance allowing a pea gravel secondary parking area at 212 Hollywood Boulevard came after-the-fact, as the driveway was already being built before an inspector was aware of it. How this came to light also figures in to the neighbor’s objection. According to the neighbor’s account, on the day the contractor removed the barriers from the gravel driveway, his wife decided to “try it out” with her own car and became stuck in the gravel, damaging the car. The neighbor, who is also a contractor, was present to relate this story and express concerns about the installation.
The first contract, however, explained that the pea gravel drive had not been completed when the woman pulled her car onto it; he had instructed the homeowners not to drive on it became it needed more compaction and gravel. He said it was his customer’s business, not the next door neighbor’s, whether the gravel was installed correctly. He also assured the board that the drive would be properly installed for traffic before allowing anyone to use it, and would take care of any gravel that was thrown into the neighbor’s property.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 PM.

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