Board of Zoning Adjustments, May 1, 2014

A new homeowner's plan to raze the white cottage at 215 East Linwood and build a two-story house in its place had neighbors talking. A local contractor promised to scale the design back for a better fit on a cramped lot.

A new homeowner’s plan to raze the white cottage at 215 East Linwood Drive and build a two story house in its place had neighbors on either side worried. The variance was granted, but the contractor promised to scale the design back for a better fit on a cramped lot.

In the most controversial case tonight, a tear-down planned on East Linwood Drive (pictured above) for a new two-story house stirred concerns about cramped living space, neighborhood aesthetics, and fire safety. In other cases, a split vote still landed an approval for an addition to a Broadway house, and board member Lauren Gwaltney sat out two of the meeting’s four votes–one to abstain due to indecision and one because she was the homeowner requesting the variance.

Members present: All- Valerie Askew (S)*, Hope Cannon, Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster (S)*, Lauren Gwaltney, Ross McCain, chairman, and Trey Schaeffer.

Staff Present: Donna Bridges, board secretary, and Vanessa McGraw, Building, Engineering & Zoning Department staff.

Audience attendance: 11

*The BZA board includes two supernumerary members who are present at meetings but whose vote is taken only in the absence or recusal of a regular board member.

Approved minutes of the March 6, 2014 meeting.

Not everyone was happy with new plans for an addition to this Broadway house--the subject of a lawsuit that was ultimately dropped. The variances passed.

Not everyone was happy with new plans for connecting a detached garage in back of this Broadway house–the subject of a lawsuit that was ultimately dropped. The variances passed.

Approved: Despite an objection, the board approved an 11.6-foot right setback variance and a 5.2-foot rear building setback allowance for an addition construction planned to connect a freestanding garage to the house at 526 Broadway Street. According to discussion, the homeowner had received a variance four years ago to connect a detached garage to the house, although she ultimately dropped the project for lack of funds. The neighbor objecting to tonight’s request had opposed the earlier plan as well, even bringing suit against the applicant at one point, for reasons that weren’t made clear, in a civil case that was dropped. The current request is for a smaller design than the original. The applicant provided letters of support from five neighbors (to one side, two to the rear and two across the street). The objection was provided in writing as well.

Approved: The board granted a 3.9-foot left building setback variance for a bathroom and closet addition at 144 Ridgemoor Drive.

Approved on a split 3-1-1 vote: The board approved a variance of up to 3 feet on the left for a second floor addition, and a 5-foot left setback variance for a new HVAC at a house planned at 215 East Linwood Drive. (The new HVAC would be in the same location as the current one, which had been determined non-compliant under a recent interpretation of the code.) The present house is a cottage on a short block sitting between two similarly sized houses. Neighbors said the property was sold before it was advertised and, despite the BZA’s posted notice, they had only seen the architect’s drawing in the last 24 hours. The owner planned to demolish the existing house and build a two-story house on a slightly smaller footprint. Although there was nothing in the code to prevent building the two-story house, all concerned parties seemed to agree that the design was too large for the lot. The contractor, owners and neighbors had met in council chambers before the case was presented in order to try to forge an agreement over the plan, with the contractor acknowledging that the footprint would have to be made smaller than drawn just to allow for construction equipment. The Fire Marshall approved the construction on condition that the building materials be fire-proof Hardie-Board (a fiber and concrete material) or brick, to which the contractor agreed. The question was raised if the applicant had a sufficient claim of hardship to be granted the variance, a question that appeared unanswered for two board members.

Voting no: Mr. McCain voted no, giving no additional explanation.

Abstaining: Ms. Gwaltney abstained, saying she couldn’t decide how to vote.

Voting yes:  Schaeffer, Jarmon and Cannon.

Approved: The board granted Ms. Gwaltney a 2.4-foot right building setback for an addition planned at her property at 313 Berkley Place.

Abstaining: Ms. Gwaltney, the applicant, recused herself, with Mr. Foster, the supernumerary, voting in her place.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.



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