The board continued its pattern of denying cases that failed the “hardship” test to justify exemptions to the city’s zoning regulations. In one case, the board denied a request for one variance, then agreed to reconsider a similar variance granted on the same house in 2014 which the homeowner allowed to expire, and denied that one as well. Lot divisions generally don’t win support on this board, and tonight’s case on East Hawthorne was no different. Three cases were approved.
Members present: All- Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, Jeffrey Foster (S), Stuart Roberts (S), Brian Jarmon, and Beverly LeBoeuf, Cannon.
Members absent: 0
Staff present: Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 15
Once again carried over a Waffle House request for a package of variances in the new West Homewood District, adding a request for a sign variance:
Denied a request for a lot area variance to divide a parcel and build two houses on East Hawthorne Road: In a case that has been carried over for months, the board unanimously denied a request from the property owner and a real estate agent to split a corner lot at 141 East Hawthorne Road to create two lots of 1,988 square feet (Lot A) and 2,292 square feet (Lot B, next to Oxmoor Road). The property was originally three lots, from which the third lot had been partitioned years ago, leaving two lots that had been merged into one tax i.d. In making the request, the new owner, a contractor, said his intent in purchasing the property was to re-divide it and build two houses, one for himself. He said he understood at closing that it was one parcel that would require legal work to divide, but didn’t think that would present a problem. He described the existing 1940s house as an eyesore that was additionally unfit to renovate because of various problems, including asbestos. In describing the hardship that would justify a variance, he supplied only financial and sentimental arguments, saying a new house on the combined lot would have to be too large to fit in with the character of the neighborhood.
Two residents spoke against the division. The first, a neighbor, objected primarily because the divided lots would be much smaller than the norm for the area. He pointed out that the original lot division was only possible because of the additional square footage from the now-partitioned Lot “C.” The second resident, the granddaughter of the original owners, said the property was never intended to be sold as two lots. She objected to the characterization of the house as an eyesore. As was evident from the beginning of the questioning, the board was not convinced by the financial arguments, and denied the variance.
Denied a current variance request and denied a previous variance granted but allowed to expire on Devon: The homeowner at 222 Devon Drive, on the corner of Hampton Drive, was denied a 9-foot variance requested for an addition that would extend the sides of the house, including the right side facing Hampton. The addition contemplated would have brought the structure nearly to the property line on that side, where the owners had planned to make other changes, such as raising the grade of the driveway for better visibility backing out of the garage, and a city council-approved re-routing of the sidewalk for the same reason.
Frustrated by the denial, the homeowner asked if the board would re-approve a 7-foot variance for the same side that had been granted in 2014, but allowed to expire, and add two more feet to it. In re-opening the case, the board’s changed membership was more reluctant to allow building to close to the property line. After much discussion to compare the two cases, the second vote was 3-2 in favor, or one vote short of an affirmative decision under the BZA’s rules for a super-majority to pass a variance. (Ms. Gwaltney didn’t vote on the 2014 case and Ms. Cannon voted yes both times. However, Brian Jarmon switched votes to a “no” tonight.)
The reversal from 2014 was due only to a change in the board’s membership and interpretation. However, Mr. Cole explained after the meeting that the 2014 approval was more questionable than tonight’s denial. At that time, he said, the ordinance defined a corner lot as two “fronts” or entrance sides, requiring much longer setbacks from the street. A variance extending so far into a “front” setback should have been even harder to justify, he said.
Voting yes in the minority on the failed first request: Hope Cannon
Voting no, resulting in a denial on the second vote: Ty Cole and Brian Jarmon
Granted variances for a rear addition on Theda: The tiny house at 110 Theda Street got a relatively easy approval tonight following two complex cases that ended in denial. With little ado except to round the variance request from 1.1-feet to an even 1 foot and a question about the fate of a large tree in the back yard (will probably be removed), the board voted unanimously to approve.
Approved a variance to allow an addition to a house on Le Jeune: Twin Construction is handling the renovation, asking for a 4-foot right setback variance to build a kitchen addition, with the owner adding that a roofed porch will also be enclosed. A neighbor on the unaffected side spoke in support of the project and there was no opposition. The case was approved unanimously.
Approved a reconsidered request to build a front porch on a house on Parkridge: Denied in March, a request for a 6-foot, 1.5-inch variance for a front porch at 2919 Parkridge Drive was scaled back to 4-feet, 8-inches and passed without much discussion tonight.