For a while it felt like a graduate school lecture hall as Trent Hatfield and an assistant spent at least 30 minutes presenting instructive photos of his new auto service business at the intersection of Oxmoor Road and Oxmoor Boulevard. But it was actually an elaborate case being argued to retain an outlawed pole sign at the prominent point where the two roads divide. BZA members were unpersuaded although they allowed the case to carry over until June while Mr. Hatfield worked on a more creative — and compliant — sign idea for the business. Five other residential requests for variances sailed through unopposed.
Members present: Beverly LeBoeuf, Jeffrey Foster (S), Lauren Gwaltney, chair, Ty Cole, Brian Jarmon, Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill, and Stuart Roberts (S), who left before the first vote.
Members absent: Matt Foley.
Staff present: Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department; Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges, part-time planner Fred Goodwin.
Audience attendance: 15
Carried over a request for multiple variances to retain an old pole sign on Oxmoor Road in West Homewood: Trent Hatfield recently moved his 60-year-old auto service business from the downtown site of a new hotel to the former Valley Tire building at 190 Oxmoor Road. The property is part of a 22-parcel area converted two years ago to a stringent “village” style building code to improve and unify the look of old buildings on Oxmoor Road.
Hatfield plans to have two compliant business signs attached to the building–the limit allowed in the district. However, he requested an exemption for a third sign to face oncoming traffic headed west, citing as his hardship that the building sits in a depression and is further obscured from view by a constant flow of 18-wheelers. To compensate, he proposed cutting an abandoned interstate pole sign to size and placing a two-sided illuminated sign above the height of passing 18-wheelers. Such a plan would break the district’s height limits by 25 feet, the width limit by 4 feet, and the area limit by 17 square feet. Pole signs have been outlawed citywide.
One person (reporting) opposed because of the prohibition. In discussion, there was some confusion over which board should hear the case, the BZA or Planning Commission, based on an editing error in the latest regulations (BZA is the correct venue). Board members then didn’t accept any of the stated hardships for a third sign: trucks aren’t stationary in front of the building; most customers already know the location; new customers probably rely more on Google maps than a physical sign. Mr. Foster sympathized that the abandoned pole sign should have been removed by the previous business. However, he said a sign abandoned over 30 days anywhere in the city should be subject to removal, and modifying the pole would trigger the same requirement now for Mr. Hatfield. Board members also said they wanted to respect the work that went into passing the village regulations to improve the area’s appearance. Nevertheless, members allowed the case to carry over while the owner decided whether to drop the request or ask for a variance for a third sign that would be otherwise compliant.
WITHDRAWN The case carried over from April at 808 Wingate Circle was withdrawn.
Granted a variance to allow a one-story addition on Mayfair: Architect Bruce McLeod asked for a 1-foot variance for a bedroom and laundry room addition on the ground floor of the house at 1806 Mayfair Drive. The plan has been on the drawing board for some time, and the city had meanwhile expanded the setbacks on lots over 55 feet in width from 9 feet to 10 feet on each side. That expansion was the stated hardship to justify the variance, he said. The board agreed and approved it unanimously.
Allowed a variance for an addition on Poinciana: Similar to the Mayfair addition, above, Bruce McLeod is the architect for a laundry and bedroom suite addition at 322 Poinciana Drive, the only difference being the hardship: that lot lines converge slightly to the rear, requiring a variance the variance of 1.7 feet to build the addition straight back. The ground also falls away in the rear, creating a space for a carport under the addition. Interestingly, the vacant lot to the affected right side also belongs to the homeowner and is used for parking surfaces, one at the front and one to the rear, which will serve the new carport.
Allowed a variance to rebuild a garage on La Prado Circle: In October a tree fell and destroyed the detached garage at the rear of 316 La Prado Circle. The board allowed a a 3.5-foot left and 3.5-foot rear variance to rebuild it on the same footprint as the original, which was out of compliance by those amounts.
Allowed a variance for an addition on Bellview Circle: The homeowners plan an indoor/outdoor 11 X 15-foot screened-in porch extending from a bedroom on the right side of the house at 1512 Bellview Circle. Because the lot narrows toward the back and the neighbor on the affected side provided a letter of support, the board allowed the addition to be built 3 feet into the side setback, and accepted the proffer that the porch would never be enclosed.
Talked a homeowner out of needing a variance for a shed on Melrose Place: The homeowner at 1408 Melrose Place cited a small lot size to justify placing a home-built shed halfway within the required 5-foot setback. But after a little conversation with the board, he decided to shift the structure slightly and stay in compliance.
Allowed a left setback variance for an addition on West Glenwood: The homeowners plan an addition and screened porch at the rear of 146 West Glenwood Drive, and will build 4 feet into the left side setback to avoid taking out a tree on the other side.