Three of the seven cases heard Thursday were under construction when the work was stopped to obtain a variance. In the first case, the board angrily denied a request from a builder who had maneuvered the permitting process to sidestep the zoning board. With help from the quick-thinking board clerk they later used a procedural maneuver of their own to reverse the unfavorable vote since the difference was a matter of inches. A subdivision planned on Mecca was approved over the objections of neighbors while other cases weren’t so lucky. Out of nine votes in seven cases, four were denials, of which two were ultimately changed.
Members present: Brian Jarmon, Stuart Roberts (S), Jeffrey Foster (S), vice chair, Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, arriving moments after roll call, which figured in a disputed vote over the first case, Beverly LeBoeuf, and Matt Foley.
Members absent: Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.
Staff present: Greg Cobb, and Vanessa McGrath, Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 34
Denied a variance for an addition already underway on East Glenwood (later allowed through a creative procedural interpretation): Builder Matthew Blocher made his case for allowing an addition on the rear of the house at 117 East Glenwood Drive to be built straight back from the existing footprint, which was already .4 feet into the setback on the right side. Had Mr. Blocher admitted that his first permit request had been denied without the variance, and that he re-submitted drawings for a compliant addition while laying block for the noncompliant version he hoped would be granted, he would have been better off. Instead, questioning revealed the subterfuge and the builder said he was only trying to get the permit approved quickly to start work on the front of the house, knowing he would have to stop at the addition before the BZA case was heard. The board, expressing its annoyance, denied 3-2 the request for a .4-foot right building setback variance. Before closing the case, Ms. Gwaltney noted a voting inconsistency, namely that the substitute voting member, Mr. Roberts, had been called to vote and not she. Ms. Gwaltney then voted yes and the clerk replaced Mr. Roberts’s yes vote for her’s before closing the case. Mr. Blocher immediately asked to have the case reheard and was asked to wait til the end of the agenda.
After hearing the six other cases, Ms. Gwaltney said she wasn’t inclined to reopen Mr. Blocher’s case, but the clerk then intervened to say she had made a second mistake, i.e., allowing Mr. Cole to vote on the case when he was late (by seconds) arriving in his seat. Apologizing, she saidi Mr. Cole’s negative vote should be disqualified and replaced with the positive vote taken earlier from Roberts. The builder, who stood up to make a statement to the board, was advised to keep his seat and accept his good fortune. The variance was now decided in his favor.
Voting no: Jarmon and Cole
Denied a 6-foot variance for a garage on Broadway, then reopened the case to pass a variance for 5-feet: The owner of 516 Broadway could have gone home earlier if he had taken a hint from the board and reduced his request for a 6-foot variance to 5 feet. The left-side accessory structure variance was to allow a two-level garage to be built on an existing parking area in the back, but on sloping terrain, so that a single (top) floor facing the alley would be above a first level built into the ground and facing the opposite direction. Asked if he would reduce the setback encroachment to five feet, he opted to take his chances on the original request, which failed on a 3-2 vote. At the end of the agenda, the case was reopened by Ms. Gwaltney, who had voted no originally. The homeowner requested a 5-foot variance, which passed unanimously.
Voting no on six feet: LeBoeuf, Foley, Gwaltney.
Unanimously denied a covered deck on Devon: The builder asked for an 8.5-foot left building variance at 216 Devon to cover a deck on the back of the house. The board was influenced by a next-door neighbor’s email objecting because of rain runoff from a roof and pointing out that the deck was already too close–only 1 foot off the property line–and would seem even closer with a roof. The denial was unanimous.
Granted two variances on an addition on Grove: This house at 700 Grove Street, which sits at an angle to the street corner, was already under construction and the left foundation laid in block to compare with a survey and determine any need for a variance. The results showed a front setback encroachment of 4 inches and left side over by 1.1-feet, both variances allowed by the board.
Allowed smaller lot sizes for a subdivision of land on Mecca: Despite objections from neighbors, a builder’s request to subdivide a vacant parcel at 211 Mecca Avenue into three lots was unanimously decided despite substantial area variance (2,969 square feet smaller per lot) and width variance (of 18 feet per lot). A presentation by the owner pointed out that the 50 X 140-foot lots would be consistent with the majority of lots on Mecca and nearby Stuart Street. The proposed house plans included three 1 1/2-story houses of 2,800 square feet each and widths narrowed to 31-feet to make room for driveways to parking in the rear. Owner/developer is Korbin Works, LLC, with applicant Bob Easley.
Objecting neighbors said the land had always been either a field or had stabled horses; that it had only one address; that lots on either side were much bigger than the 50 X 140-feet quoted by the developer, making the new development look out-of-place. They also complained new houses would aggravate chronic parking and traffic problems on the one-way street near the middle school. Another neighbor, on Peerless, asked if the houses would be within setbacks and pointed out that water ran down the steep slope and across the property being developed.
In discussion, Mr. Cole dismissed many of the objections about traffic as irrelevant to the zoning questions. He admitted there were larger lots nearby, but pointed out lots had indeed been platted in 1907, although never built. As to drainage, the builders had an engineer on the team, who was present at the meeting, and would pipe any runoff into the storm drain system, for a net improvement in the neighborhood. There will be no setback variances needed, according to the plans presented, and the variances were approved.
Granted 4-1 a significant front setback variance for a new house on Murray Hill Road: Homeowners at 1748 Murray Hill Road plan to tear down the current house on the 1-acre lot and re-build 18.6 feet into the front setback in order to retain an existing pool in the back and create a backyard on some of the scarce flat areas of the property. Board members were reluctant to grant such a large variance without a more credible hardship and said the house plan was only on paper and could be easily re-thought to comply with setbacks. They ultimately conceded the variance, however, because the 18 feet difference wouldn’t be noticeable on such a large lot.
Voting no: LeBoeuf
Allows one variance and denies another for a porch and grill deck on Delcris: The homeowner asked for a 2-foot right building variance at 310 Delcris Court to build a covered porch to replace a deck that had already been torn down when the homeowner learned about needing a variance. That variance was unanimously approved but a second 2-foot variance for a separate grill deck was killed in a 4-1 vote because it would lay too close to the property line.
Voting yes for the failed grill deck variance: LeBoeuf