Summary: Miscalculations were discovered on two cases tonight, allowing one to be approved with a smaller variance than requested but forcing another case to be postponed and re-advertised because the actual variances were so much larger than originally thought. A case involving preserving a controversial pole sign, now prohibited in the city, was carried over a second time.
Members present: Beverly LeBoeuf, Lauren Gwaltney, chair, (arriving after the start of the first case and therefore not voting on it), Ty Cole, Matt Foley, Stuart Roberts (S), and new member Andrew Marlin (S), replacing Jeffrey Foster.
Members absent: Brian Jarmon and Battalion Chief Nickolas Hill.
Staff present: Greg Cobb and Vanessa McGrath of the Building, Engineering and Zoning Department, and planner (part-time) Fred Goodwin, also of BEZ; and Planning and zoning clerk Donna Bridges.
Audience attendance: 17
*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. Variances expire in 180 days if a building permit isn’t obtained.
Carried over a request to keep and modify an outlawed pole sign on Oxmoor Road: Business owner Trent Hatfield and an aide made an impassioned plea two months ago to keep an abandoned pole sign at his business at 190 Oxmoor Road and modify it for Hatfield Auto Parts and Service’ current use. Mr. Hatfield was allowed to carry over the case rather than face a denial and advised to look at the West Homewood District requirements for signage, and make those regulations work. He asked to carry over the case, which as advertised requests a 25-foot overall height variance, a 5-foot width variance, a 17-square-foot area variance, and 1-foot thickness variance. The sign was also to be illuminated.
Carried over a request to allow substantial lot width and area variances to divide one lot on Devon into two smaller lots: The property owner, who lives elsewhere in Homewood, asked for variances to allow the division of a lot she inherited at 306 Devon Drive into two smaller lots, citing financial need as the motive, which is not an allowed reason. The property had originally been purchased as two lots and combined into one. A adjacent neighbor on Hampton Drive asked if any new houses built on the divided lots would have to meet the same setbacks. The answer was yes (unless variances are granted), although it was later discovered that a division could also throw the existing house into noncompliance, if it were to remain.
The BZA can grant setback variances for divisions, but the Planning Commission must rule whether to allow the actual resurvey.
The advertised request was to allow each new lot to be 884 square feet smaller and 4.5 feet narrower than regulations normally allow. However, a measurement error discovered by a board member would have brought the proposed division even further out of compliance–making each new lot 1,277 square feet smaller and lot widths 7 feet narrower than regulations allow. Because the variances were larger than advertised, the case was carried over to be re-advertised–and with a caution to the owner that her given financial hardship was ineligible for granting variances, no matter the amounts.
Allowed a setback variance on a Devon house for a single-story addition: The homeowner wants to extend the current right-side wall back to add a master bedroom on the ground floor at 400 Devon Drive. The house is already out of compliance on that side by 4.8 feet and because the house isn’t exactly parallel to the lot line, the extension will bring it slightly more out of compliance, by 5 feet. A planned second level addition with dormer windows would not encroach into the setback. The homeowner delighted the board by bringing a 3-dimensional model of the addition so they could visualize it better.
Allowed variances to allow a single lot on Ridge to be divided into two smaller lots: The homeowner at 1609 Ridge Road wants to tear down his house and divide the lot into two smaller lots for each of his two daughters. In making his case, Mr. Robert Boyce III pointed out that the new houses planned on the divided lots wouldn’t require any further variances, and that the size variances he was requesting were based on an average of 11 surrounding lots, which were sometimes double lots and therefore much larger than usual in Homewood. As advertised, each new lot would be 4,839 square feet smaller in area and 46.5 feet narrower than required by zoning regulations. He had written approval from four neighbors and pointed out that five houses on Ridge under construction now had less clearance than would his proposed houses.
In discussion Ms. McGrath said there was talk of extending either Wellington or Wellington View Streets to create more lots. She said original owners purchased double lots because they wanted more space, just as they had done on Lucerne, in a highly contested subdivision case. A board member pointed out that the Ridge lots were much bigger, and also hidden from view.
The board seemed persuaded by those rationales and, although an eligible hardship wasn’t stated, the homeowner’s motive to keep family nearby (versus selling for profit).
The variances passed 4-1-0 with Ms. LeBoeuf abstaining. The case will now go to the Planning Commission to rule on the actual resurvey.
Granted a left side variance for an addition on a Manhattan house: Drake Homes, builder of a 1-story addition at 1518 Manhattan Street, applied to extend the walls of the house straight back, which on the left side was already 4.4 feet into the setback. However, a drawing produced for the first time tonight, and not in the board packets showed the addition would actually be stepped in 4 feet from the original house line–not extended straight back–and therefore only cross into the setback by 2 feet. The 2-foot variance was granted.
Granted a 2.2-foot left side variance to an addition on Poinciana: Designers of an addition at 227 Poinciana Drive plan a renovation that will preserve the front but extend the house straight back to the rear setback limit in order to preserve the roof line. Because the left side is already crossing the setback by 2-feet, 2-inches, they asked for a variance by that amount to be continued for the addition. The addition will add a master suite on the ground floor and a covered patio. Although the addition will extend the width of the house on the right, driveway, side, it will remain within the setback.
Before adjourning the clerk advised the board chair to appoint a committee to nominate a new vice chair to replace Jeffrey Foster. After much discussion, it was decided that board member Ty Cole would contact everyone by email and present a nominee to elect at the next meeting.