Board of Zoning Adjustments, Feb. 4, 2016

Will the Waffle House be the first West Homewood development in the new "Village" district? If so, that sign will have to go.

The Waffle House postponed a case after learning its rebuilding plans mean the end to its iconic, but offending, sign on Oxmoor Road. The company may alter its plans to keep the sign, or come back to the BZA in March with a variance for the sign as well.

The BZA’s tough questioning to Verizon and Waffle House sent both companies back to the drawing board tonight. But homeowners on Westover left with a 5-foot variance to build a carport.

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

Members absent: None

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

Audience attendance: 10

*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.

OLD BUSINESS

Carried over once again, to March, cases at 141 East Hawthorne Road, to divide a lot, and 305 Woodland Drive, for a second floor addition.
NEW BUSINESS
BZA member Ty Cole said he was "shocked" not to see neighbors protesting Verizon's request to mount cell panels on top of the parking deck. The case was continued to March after hard questioning from the board--a variance to Verizon means more carriers would follow.

BZA member Ty Cole said he was “shocked” not to see neighbors protesting Verizon’s request to mount cell panels on top of the parking deck. The case was continued to March after hard questioning from the board–a variance to Verizon means more carriers would follow.

Carried over a request for a 15-foot height variance for a series of Verizon cell phone antenna panels:  Surprisingly, there was no resident objection in writing or in person to Verizon’s request for a variance allowing the company to install solar cell panels atop Dawson’s parking deck, which is already 7.5 feet higher than regulations, due to an earlier variance. Dawson itself is in support of the paid lease at 1019 Oxmoor Road, which is already written pending approval of the variance. But that didn’t come tonight. The objections raised were entirely from the BZA, which in dialog revealed that Verizon wanted better 4G LTE coverage in a very small, specific area of Oxmoor Road, on which the Dawson deck is the highest structure. The Verizon rep., pitching an argument that the building was a better choice than a stand-alone tower, didn’t win any adherents. Questions from the board showed that cell tower permissions are much harder for a utility company to obtain and more expensive to build, that once Verizon won any variances the door would be opened to competing cell companies wanting to install equipment in the same area; that electric power and fiber optic apparatus planned on the building would be exposed and unattractive; and that the representative had no data on what other sites were considered, how many customers would benefit, or by how much. After lengthy discussion, Verizon chose to continue the case to March and return with the requested information.

Rear or 323 Westover from a Google shot. The homeowners plan a rear carport on the alley.

Rear of 323 Westover from a Google shot. The homeowners plan a rear carport on the alley.

Approved a setback variance to allow a carport to be sited near an alley behind 323 Westover Drive: The homeowners said they wanted to locate a carport closer than allowed to the property line in order to access it from an alley and leave a bigger back yard. The matter was approved with a proffer not to enclose the carport and advice that the couple make sure a car could make the turn into a carport in such confined space.

One of West Homewood's oldest surviving businesses may be the first to redevelop under the new West Homewood District code. It's retro glass encased diner already meets the code's glass/glazing requirements.

One of West Homewood’s oldest surviving businesses (1972) could be the first to redevelop under the new West Homewood District “village” code. Or not.

Continued a case for a new Waffle House building after the applicant learned it could not include the existing sign: After months of postponing this case and long discussions with the city’s zoning administrator/engineer, Waffle House apparently didn’t understand zoning regulations prohibited retaining the tall, brightly lit (but iconic) 1972 sign at 185 Oxmoor Road. The restaurant chain had asked instead for variances to allow it to sit 6.5 feet further from the street than regulations allow due to a “chamfered” corner lot line, and to allow the ceiling to be dropped for better cleaning–West Homewood village zoning requires a higher ceiling, ground floors and front entrances. The lowered ceiling, if granted, would also require exemptions from door height. The building’s signature narrow profile would also require a variance from the amount of glass required by the new code. Those requests had just been made when a resident spoke in favor of the development, but against the sign, and a second resident spoke against allowing the ceiling variance.

In discussion it was explained that the new zoning regulations included specific sign prototypes to retain a uniform, “village” look. The sign is currently grandfathered, but compliance would be triggered if remodeled at 50% or more, and Waffle House had planned a total rebuild. With this new information, the representative said the company wanted to keep the sign, and perhaps would consider a less substantial remodel. It was his opinion that the business’s success in the neighborhood was due to the sign’s visibility from the Interstate exit.

The meeting was adjourned.

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