The board on Thursday called for a rare re-vote after misunderstanding a rebuilding project on Overton Road. Of special note was William Tucker’s BZA request for second-story setback variances on a row of five houses planned for the Broadway “triangle.” This visit represents the fourth appearance before city review boards — and the second before the BZA– for various building exemptions. But it is not his last. A public hearing is set June 8 before the City Council votes whether to allow front-yard fences for the project.
Members present: Brian Jarmon, Jeffrey Foster, Beverly LeBoeuf, Lauren Gwaltney, and Ty Cole.
Members absent: Hope Cannon.
Staff present: Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering, and Zoning Department; Donna Bridges, board secretary.
Audience attendance: 11
*Note on procedure: By state law, zoning variances granted by the 5-member board require a super majority of 4 members voting in the affirmative. To keep business moving in case of absences, the law also allows two substitutes (S) to sit in and vote if needed. All decisions are made following a public hearing. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.
Voted, and revoted to grant variances allowing an addition on Overton Drive: In an unusual case, the applicant at 3120 Overton Drive was denied variances (a .6-foot right building setback and a 4.4-foot left building setback, both for a planned second floor) for this addition. When the first vote was 3-2, however, it became clear that members misunderstood the owner’s intention to keep a basement and first floor intact. That vote was rescinded and a second vote taken, 4-1,allowing the variances. (Approval requires a super majority.)
Of concern during initial discussion were the location of the neighbor’s driveway on the property line, drainage issues, which would be resolved by new gutters, less than the 20-foot clear space between houses for fire safety, requiring automatic sprinklers, and the concern that there was no hardship justifying the variances, since the house was being rebuilt from scratch. The house, however, was not being rebuilt from the ground up, as board members learned.
Voting no both times: Jeffrey Foster.
Approved variances allowing a playhouse near the property line on Ascott Road: The homeowners asked for and received a 3-foot side setback and 1.5- rear setback variance for an accessory structure at 303 Ascott Road. Board discussion revealed that the back yard was cut into a steep hillside and the owner already had built a 6-foot X 12-foot deck. He wanted to tear down the existing playhouse to increase lawn space, and put the new playhouse on the deck. The roof, therefore, may be visible 2-3 feet above a 6-foot privacy fence.
Approved a series of side setback variances for a row of houses on the Broadway “triangle” property: This case arrived with plenty of baggage — The Planning Commission in April approved parcel subdivisions to accommodate a row of five houses requested by investor William Tucker at 909 Broadway, after the BZA allowed substantial setback and lot size variances at its meeting, also in April. In this visit, Mr. Tucker brought samples of fire-rated housing siding as he was requesting variances to allow the second stories of the houses to be closer than the city code allows for fire safety. Mr. Tucker also explained that the fire department would have access to houses from both Short Saulter and Broadway sides of the development. The proposed houses will be 1 1/2 stories high and each sitting on a 39-foot deep lot.
This was not the last of the special conditions being requested for the Broadway project. On June 8, the City Council has set a public hearing for Mr. Tucker’s request to fence the houses’ front (or exposed side) yards.
Reason/Purpose: New Residences Variance Request (variances affect only four houses):
1′ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 1
5′ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 2
5’ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 3
1’ Left Bldg. Setback Variance – Lot 4
In the public hearing, a neighbor voiced concerns if driveways would be open from both Saulter and Broadway sides. This isn’t the case; the houses face Broadway and driveways are not through.
The board was concerned about the second floors being too close for fire safety if used as living space. Instead, the board voted to allow 1-foot variances on second floors if used for living space, and the requested 5-foot variances if unfinished attic space only.
Approved a variance allowing an addition on English Circle: Homeowners at 304 English Circle requested and won an 8.4-foot right building setback variance (already existing) to enclose a screened back porch. The house received variances for other work in 1997 and in 2010.
Allowed variances for a major renovation of a house on Bonita Drive: The homeowner at 116 Bonita Drive asked for a 2-foot left building setback variance, presenting a letter of support from the left-side neighbor and arguing that the irregular lot shape created a hardship to build within the code. (The required variance was actually only 1.8-feet off code.) The renovation will require removing multiple trees.
In the public hearing, a neighbor approved of improvements to what she called the “eyesore house,” and was happy to learn it was a renovation, not a rebuild.