Board of Zoning Adjustments, Jan. 7, 2016

BZAThe board considered several second-story additions and waived building height restrictions for a Samford University Greek housing project. It came to light that the city is working to create a special zoning district pertinent to campus buildings, and also allow taller buildings. Residents are given reassurance that a Saulter Road access road will be used only for fire department access.

Members present: All- Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Hope Cannon, Ty Cole, Jeffrey Foster (S), Brian Jarmon and Beverly LeBoeuf.

Members absent: None

Vacancy: 1 at-large supernumerary

Staff present: Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.

Audience attendance: 14

*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, or “supernumeraries” (S) to sit in and vote if needed. There is one suchvacancy remaining. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.

Carried over approval of the September and November meeting minutes.


141 East Hawthorne. A proposed lot division request on this corner property was carried over to January.

141 East Hawthorne. A proposed lot division request on this corner property was carried over to February.

Again carried over an East Hawthorne Road case to divide a lot:  The case, which involves dividing a corner lot at 141 East Hawthorne at Oxmoor Road, had been carried over in December and was carried over again this month. The variance request is to waive lot area requirements to allow the division into lots smaller than regulations allow. The applicant is RMR Property Group.


305 Woodland Drive

305 Woodland Drive

Carried over a variance request for a second-story addition on Woodland: The request was for a 1.3-foot right setback variance in order to build a second-story addition at 305 Woodland Drive without having to set back the second floor. (Regulations require a greater setback for second stories than ground floors for fire safety and to reduce the imposing presence of a second story on neighboring houses.) When asked what hardship justified the variance, the homeowner said he wanted it for both aesthetic reasons (better symmetry) and to gain more space. During the public hearing, the homeowner’s left side neighbor said she didn’t object to the request but wanted to know if he would have to meet the same fire safety window requirements (i.e. glass block) that she had to meet for her own second floor addition, since the two houses were only 11 feet apart. The board relayed that question and others to the homeowner, who said he didn’t want to go to the expense of getting detailed plans before knowing if he’d be granted the variance. Mr. Cole urged the applicant to come up with more detailed plans, including an elevation drawing, and the case was put off to the next meeting.

604 Hambaugh Boulevard

604 Hambaugh Boulevard

Allowed a 5-foot rear setback variance for a house addition on Hambaugh: Architect Joe Ellis presented a variance request for 604 Hambaugh Avenue, whose owners are planning to build a master suite second-story addition. The hardship in this case is the triangular shape of the lot, which makes it shallower than nearby lots, and with a rear alley mitigating the effect of the proposed expansion on the neighbor to the rear. The request was granted, subject to the limitations indicated in the drawing submitted to the city (which indicate that the variance is needed for only a portion of the right-side second-story addition).

224 East Edgewood Drive

224 East Edgewood Drive

Drawings, 224 East Edgewood

Click to enlarge

Approved one setback variance for a second story on and East Edgewood Drive storage building, but denied another one: The board approved a 4-foot right side setback variance at 224 East Edgewood Drive, but denied a 4.3-foot rear setback variance needed to finish attic space on a storage building second story. David Siegel of Twin Construction was the applicant on behalf of the homeowners. The rear setback variance was requested to allow addition of an exterior stairway (see diagram), and the side setback variance was requested to allow construction of an interior wall that would have been allowed under previous code regulations but not under the revised ordinance. The hardships cited to justify the code exceptions included the lost floor space that would result from building the staircase on the inside, and an argument that the new restrictions limited interior renovations in this case, without benefiting neighboring properties. However, the board was concerned about the appearance of the exterior staircase to the rear neighbor. Mr.  Cole suggested that the second story entrance be moved to the left side of the structure, which wouldn’t require a variance. With input from Mr. Siegel, the board then decided to consider each variance separately, and voted down the rear variance request, with one dissent, while approving the right side variance–also with one dissenting vote. It remains to be seen whether the homeowner will proceed with construction without both variances.

Voting “yes” to the failed rear variance – Hope Cannon

Voting “no” to the side variance, which passed – Beverly LeBoeuf

Aerial view of site of new Greek houses at Samford University.

Aerial view of site of new Greek houses at Samford University.

Approved building height variances for Greek houses on the Samford University campus: On January 5, the Planning Commission approved a conditional change to Samford University‘s Development Plan to allow it to build three new 3-story Greek residence halls on a parking lot on a ridge on the northwest part of campus. Although the buildings will be visually similar to nearby buildings, their proposed height would exceed height restrictions by 6.5-feet, and tonight Davis Architects requested a variance to waive that restriction. The hardship cited was the desire to make the buildings match adjacent Greek housing and also have the height necessary to accommodate fire sprinklers.

Several audience members asked to see plans, and a resident of Colony Circle was concerned about 1) The proximity of the the buildings to Saulter Road; 2) The existing vegetation buffer along Saulter being maintained; and 3) The newly completed campus access road to Saulter being used as a construction entrance. Neighbors were reassured on all three points, and the variance was approved subject to the condition that the new access road would be used only for fire department access. As an information item, Ms. McGrath said Samford had received five building height variances since 2005, and that she anticipated working with Samford to establish a separate zoning district for the campus, similar to one governing Brookwood and Wildwood, that would allow taller buildings than zoning rules presently allow, but with shorter height requirements imposed near residential neighborhoods.

The meeting adjourned at 6:58 pm.


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