A two-hour meeting with 11 cases included four on Broadway requesting variances to the setback regulations. Willow Homes was the loser on its bid to squeeze a 1 1/2 story house on a difficult, triangular lot by pulling it too close to the sidewalk, out of line with neighboring houses. That case was carried over to September. No denials were posted, but two other cases had one dissenting vote, from Brian Jarmon.
Members present: Brian Jarmon, arriving too late to vote on the first case, Hope Cannon, Jeffrey Foster, vice chair, presiding for chair Lauren Gwaltney, who arrived in time to abstain from the last case, Ty Cole, Beverly LeBoeuf, and Stuart Roberts (S)*
Members absent: Lauren Gwaltney, chair, was absent for 9 of the 11 cases. 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: 21 *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 a right side variance for a Crest house addition and waived a 2-space parking requirement: David Siegel of Twin Construction explained that although he will strive to find parking in an adjacent alley or in the back if the septic tank field lines are abandoned for a sewer connection, the house at 1119 Crest Avenue does not currently have a driveway for off-street parking. The additional variance of 3.3 feet into the right setback, which is already in use, will be continued for the planned addition.
Approved a right building setback variance for an addition on Windhaven: A 2.6-foot variance was allowed on the right side of the house at 108 Windhaven Road, for a one story addition.
Carried over multiple variance requests for a new Broadway house to expand footprint and bring a 1 1/2 story house closer to the street: Willow Homes builder Jason Hale was interested in building a new two-level spec house at 402 Broadway but drew opposition from a neighbor on the left for the overall size, and particularly a front setback that was inconsistent with other houses on the street. Mr. Hale was unprepared for specific questions about the measurements and the effect of bringing the front up to 20 feet from the sidewalk. (Front setback is determined in part by the setbacks of neighboring houses, which hadn’t been taken into consideration.) The questions prompted Mr. Cobb to go measure the property while the case was moved to the end of the meeting. When he returned, Mr. Cobb said neighboring houses lined up almost exactly, at about 33 feet from the sidewalk. The Willow design would therefore be jutting out 10 feet or more from those houses — and not likely to be approved. He was advised, after long discussion, to get an extension on his purchase contract and carry the matter over until September, when he could re-figure a design for the house on that lot. Mr. Hale asked the board to consider each of the four other variance requests in separate votes so he could get a preview the board’s thinking on each one. Two members explained that variances couldn’t be granted in the absence of a design. Mr. Cole added it made no sense to present the design as the smallest house possible on the lot, then to come back 10 minutes later and say it could be made even smaller. Carried over until September are the front setback request, which is not likely to pass unchanged, and four others: a 3.7-foot right building variance for the first floor, a 1-foot right setback variance for the 2nd floor, a 2-foot left first floor building setback variance and a 5.5-foot left 2nd floor setback variance.
Approved 3 variances for an addition on a Manhattan house: Jason Hale of Willow Homes was more successful with his request for three variances for a rear addition on a two-level house at 1410 Manhattan Street, along with support from two neighbors who were present. Granted were 1-foot left first floor setback variance, a 2-foot left 2nd floor setback variance (2-feet already existing) and a 4-foot right building setback (already existing) on the second floor. In questions, it was asked if the rear extension would use the same siding material, or limestone. The homeowners said they would like to, but didn’t know if they could afford it.
Variance allowed for an addition on a Forest Drive House: The homeowner asked for a 2.5-foot right building setback variance (already existing) at 854 Forest Drive to add a den in the rear and build a 15-foot covered porch going straight back from the rear of the house.
Variance to allow a new house on Ventura Avenue: The homeowners at 5 Ventura Avenue were granted a 7.6-foot right building setback variance for their plan to raze the current house and freestanding garage and rebuild a new house and attached garage in its place. They had originally planned to build on the same foundation, but three corners were in such bad shape a foundation repair service would have charged $30,000 but without warrantying the work.
Variance passed with one dissent to allow a detached garage closer to lot line on Morris: The board allowed the homeowner at 604 Morris Boulevard to build an additional 4.1-feet into the required setback for an accessory structure on the right side. The building is being used for storage now, but will be renovated into a mother-in-law’s suite, an addition that will expand the building from 20 X 28 feet to 20 X 42 feet.
Voting no: Jarmon
Variance granted for work already completed on a covered deck on Broadway: The homeowner at 313 Broadway tore down and replaced a rotting deck in his back yard, extending the roof to cover it, but without getting a permit or prior approval for a setback variance. The 1.9-foot right building variance was granted retroactively with the proffer that the deck never be enclosed.
More variances for Columbiana Road condominium expansion: This expansion of a condominium development already rezoned and approved for six units and a private drive at 818 Columbiana Road, will add four more units at 822 Columbiana Road, with the additional units facing the first six across the planned drive. (This case has been heard multiple times in other venues. For the most recent with links to earlier cases, click here.) Granted were several variances allowing the building on shallower lots (64 feet deep) and closer to property lines, as follows: A 3-foot front building variance and a 30-foot rear building setback variance for all four units. Lots 8 and 9 will also have a much smaller lot area, by 1,000 feet each, according to the variance granted. The vote is conditioned on the added parcel being rezoned from commercial to residential (R-7) by the City Council.
Variance approved to convert a one-car garage to living space and extend a roof over an adjacent carport on Broadway: The board allowed the homeowner at 316 Broadway to build 10 feet into a right side accessory structure setback, and 1-foot 7 inches into the rear setback to convert a one-car detached garage into living space with a full bath and extend a “lean-to” roof over an adjacent one-car carport to be built in the back.
Approved, with one dissenting vote, a new two-story garage on Broadway: Brice Elliott plans to build a two-story, 25 X 21-foot garage at 310 Broadway, near Edgewood Elementary, but asked for a 5-foot left accessory building setback variance to move the garage so cars could avoid an Alabama Power pole across the alley. Some discussion followed on whether the pole was really a hardship, since it is on the other side of a 10 foot alley, with the garage placed another 10 feet inside the rear property line. The owner didn’t want to move the garage toward the house for aesthetic reasons, either, and because it would take up backyard space.
Voting no: Brian Jarmon Abstaining from the vote: Lauren Gwaltney and Ty Cole, for business associations with the applicant.