Tonight’s two-hour meeting was dominated by a discussion of the fate of the southern half of the Broadway “triangle” by JoJo’s and Gianmarco’s restaurants. Developer Chris Tucker has already received variances to build five houses on the northern half of the property; he has apparently negotiated to buy the land remaining on the narrower end of the parcel, subject to the getting variances necessary to fit a small house there.
Members present: Hope Cannon, Ty Cole, Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Jeffrey Foster, vice-chair (S),* Beverly LeBoeuf, and Stuart Roberts (S).*
Members absent: Brian Jarmon.
Note: Hope Cannon’s term has expired but she continues to serve until the Council appoints another member from Ward 5.
Staff present: Greg Cobb, Vanessa McGrath, and Fred Goodwin of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 38
*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 supernumerary members (substitutes (S)) to sit in and vote if needed. Tonight, in the absence of one regular member, the supernumerary members took turns voting. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.
Approved minutes of the March meeting, with amendments.
Approved a variance to allow a front porch addition on Broadway: The owner of 717 Broadway was granted a variance to build 3 feet into the front setback variance for a porch, which would take the place of existing shrubbery. In exchange for the variance, the owner promised not to enclose the porch, which will be 7 feet deep and will not protrude beyond the neighbor’s front porch.
Approved 4-1 a variance to allow a second-story on the front of a house on Ardsley Place: Homeowners at 1418 Ardsley Place were granted a 6-foot left side setback variance to allow them to add a second story to the front of their house for two additional bedrooms. Previous owners had already added a second level to the back of the house, and the topography of the back yard made another rear addition unfeasible.
Voting no: Jeffery Foster
Approved a variance to allow a back porch addition on Ventura Avenue: Citing the hardship of a pie-shaped lot, Twin Properties was back before the board asking for an additional 5-foot right side variance at 104 Ventura Avenue, which was granted variances for the other side last month. A neighbor whose lot backed up to the Ventura property spoke in opposition, saying she was concerned about increased noise and devaluation of her property. After taking into account the existence of a 50-foot Birmingham Water Works Board right-of-way between the two properties, plus the applicant’s promise to use the variance only for an unenclosed porch, the board approved the request.
Approved two variances and denied one for a remodel and addition planned on Leland Road: After hearing a neighbor’s objection and appreciating just how close the house at 2917 Leland Road is to its right-side neighbor, the board denied a 2.1-foot right-side variance that would have allowed the homeowner to extend his existing foundation line towards the rear of the property. The board did, however, grant the homeowner’s request for front-side and left-side variances of 1.5-feet, which would allow them to use existing foundations for portions of the construction.
Approved variances to allow construction of an additional house on the triangular property between Broadway and short Saulter: Developer Chris Tucker sought front, right, and rear building setback variances to allow the construction of a house at 910 Broadway (property presently owned by the Di Chiara estate). Citing as his hardship the triangular shape of this narrow lot, he sought to build 5 feet into the setback area on the right (closest to the other new houses), 2 feet into the front setback (facing Broadway), and 12 feet into the rear (facing short Saulter).
Five homeowners on short Saulter spoke during the public hearing; three opposed the application, citing the loss of a green buffer [this portion still remains wooded], and two spoke in favor of Tucker’s plan, believing there were no attractive alternatives. Ms. McGrath explained the property is still for sale and others have approached the planning department to find out if the lot is large enough to accommodate a house. Mr. Cobb reiterated that the city has no interest in buying the property.
In response to concerns expressed by neighbors, Tucker explained that although he could not speak for a future buyer, he planned to cut down only two trees on the parcel–a dead tree and a tree that would interfere with placement of the house. He said that he intended to leave 275 feet of green buffer, get rid of the vines that have been choking out the trees, and plant grass along the sidewalks for the length of the property.
Board members seemed most concerned about the proximity to the nearest house and encouraged Tucker to consider moving the house farther south; Tucker, in contrast, was concerned that reducing the right side setback would push the house too far into the narrow part of the triangle and would result in the house sitting too close to the street on the short Saulter side. Ultimately there was a compromise and Tucker reduced his right side variance request from 5 feet to 1 foot, and his three requests passed.
Voting no to all three: Beverly LeBoeuf
[A little background–This property has been the subject of at least one office and one condominium proposal, both unsuccessful–following an equally unsuccessful neighborhood campaign in 2013 for the city to purchase it for a neighborhood pocket park. That proposal went down to defeat in the face of a Friends of Broadway Park Facebook and online petition in its favor with 445 signatures. The Tucker housing project emerged last year, with the support of several Saulter residents who said they believed it was the best option left, and with the understanding that the south portion would remain wooded. Here are links to earlier discussions:
- March 7, 2013 Park Board considers the purchase of the triangle
- A Sept. 5, 2013, lot variance request for a condominium development is withdrawn in the face of neighborhood opposition.
- BZA on April 2, 2015 grants substantial setback variances on six proposed lots in advance of Planning Commission approval later that week.
- Planning Commission on April 7, 2015, approved Tucker parcel resurvey.
- BZA on June 4, 2015, grants variances to allow second level additions closer than code allowed.
- Council on June 22, 2015, allows rear fences and side fences on two end lots, but denies front yard fences for the development.
Approved, variances to allow addition of a half story on Palmetto Street: On behalf of the homeowners at 1007 Palmetto Street, contractor Brent Uptain was granted a 0.3-foot right building setback variance and a 2.1-foot left building setback variance to steepen the pitch of the roofline to add additional living space under the roof. He proposed no change to the first-floor walls.
Approved, a request to replace a carport with a more attractive and possibly larger structure: The homeowner at 607 Oxmoor Road was allowed to replace a dated aluminum carport that protrudes 8 feet into the left-side setback with a newer wooden structure, using the same 8-foot variance in current use.
Approved, an increased setback variance to allow a rear addition on Broadway: The new owners of 403 Broadway Street were granted a 2.5-foot right building variance to allow a small master suite addition to the back of the house. The cited hardship was the shape of the lot and the fact that the house sat at an angle to the property lines.
Approved an after-the-fact request for a variance for English Circle: A city employee issued a construction permit in error for an addition at 307 English Circle that didn’t comply with a 20-foot required rear setback clearance. The new construction is built 11 feet into the setback, requiring either a retroactive variance for that amount or, in the case of a denial, demolishing the construction underway. The homeowners (who are expecting twins soon) submitted documentation of neighborhood support for the variance. After exploring how this mistake had come about–a combination of the wrong scale used on submitted drawings and failure on the city’s part to double-check them, the board granted the request, with one abstention.
Abstaining: Lauren Gwaltney.
The meeting adjourned at 8:00 pm.
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