In two of the three cases heard tonight the board uncovered situations that either slipped past regulators or called for more investigation. A request for two setback variances for a two-level detached garage on Durham Drive was defeated in two separate votes after objections from neighbor, developer Chris Tucker (Broadway triangle residences), who complained of a “behemoth” guest house allowed on 505 Yorkshire, next door to his house. On the last case of the night, which was granted variances for an addition, members discovered a noncompliant deck drawn into the plans that would have encroached into the setback.
Members present: Brian Jarmon, Stuart Roberts (S), Jeffrey Foster, vice chair (arriving after the first case was started and therefore not voting), Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, Beverly LeBoeuf, and new Ward 5 member Matt Foley, who declined to vote on his first visit. Mr. Foley was appointed to the seat vacated by Hope Cannon.
Members absent: Batallion Chief Nickolas Hill.
Staff present: Greg Cobb, Vanessa McGrath, and Fred Goodwin of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 11
*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 (S) to sit in and vote if needed. Tonight there were only four present for the first three cases, meaning each vote had to be unanimous to pass, which they were. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.
Approved April, May and June meeting minutes, with edits, and July minutes as presented.
The Westover Drive case carried over from last month was withdrawn by the applicants: The couple’s request for a 4-foot right building setback variance at 906 Westover Drive last month was carried over pending a survey, since the variance may not have been necessary.
Approved a variance for an addition on Grove: The board approved a left building setback variance at 1607 Grove Place so the homeowners could build an addition on the rear. Because the house is angled on the property, the extension required a variance to allow a 2-foot encroachment into the setback, which is already partially occupied by an earlier addition to the house.
Denied in two votes variances for a detached garage on Durham Drive: Homeowners at 530 Durham Drive sought to build a detached two level garage (not fully two stories high) on the far rear and right sight of the property to gain room to maneuver their cars between the garage and house. A rise in ground level closer to the house was cited as a hardship, since building it closer have made the garage roof line taller than the house, they said. However, the request drew a successful objection from back yard neighbor at 507 Yorkshire Drive who said his yard already faced a close accessory structure at 536 Durham Drive, next door to the applicants, and a “behemoth” structure that had been going up seemingly forever next door to him. That structure, he said, should be viewed as the real cause of his objection, since one more garage or carriage house would create a wall of accessory buildings behind his house.
The neighbor showed a pictures of that three-story building, which prompted the board to shift their concern to how or whether it was permitted by the city (it was). While the Yorkshire Drive building complicated deliberations, the board asked more pointed questions about the applicants’ ability to alter their garage plans, either by moving it entirely or shortening the depth of the space. Members then offered to vote separately on each variance to possibly salvage some of the request, an offer that didn’t work, with a unanimous denial voted for the rear variance and a split, 3-2 vote polled in favor of the right side exemption (approvals require a minimum of four votes for approval).
Voting no on the right side variance: LeBoeuf and Gwaltney.
Granted a variance for an addition on Forest Drive: The couple at 814 Forest Drive plan to build a two-story addition onto their 1,000 square foot house, retaining the front rooms and porch and covering the original front and new addition with Hardie board siding and a metal roof. The addition to the rear will encroach 3 feet into the left building setback, requiring the variance. The board, which allowed the variance, discovered on the plans a deck over five feet from the ground (and therefore following the setbacks for the main house) that would also require a variance if it were to be built, a fact overlooked by the zoning staff. The applicants agreed they would not build the deck.
Interestingly, the variance request for the house, which will be 29 feet high, was received two days before the council approved a new method of measuring height and new setbacks (from 9 feet to 10), which didn’t affect the vote tonight because of that timing.