DATE: March 7, 2001

TO: Planning Commission

FROM: Tim Maguire, Principal Planner
Community Development Department

FILE NO.: VAR2001-00006

PROPOSAL: A variance to reduce the required minimum lot width at the front of the building from 30 feet to 27. 21 feet for proposed Lot 5B, Lake Hills Subdivision to allow the existing two-unit dwelling to be developed as a common wall dwelling.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Applicant: Richard Harris

Property Owner: RH Development

Property Address: Lee Court

Legal Description: Lot 5, Lake Hills Subdivision

Parcel Code Number: 4-B28-0-105-005-0

Site Size: 10,817 Square Feet

Zoning: D-15, Multifamily Residential

Utilities: CBJ Water and Sewer Services

Access: Lee Court

Existing Land Use: Vacant

Surrounding Land Use: North - Multifamily, Duplex

South - Multifamily

East - 2 Unit, Common Wall Dwelling

West - Vacant

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The applicant is proposing to construct a two-unit common wall development on Lot 5, Lake Hills Subdivision. Each unit will be two-story and approximately 1,760 square feet.

BACKGROUND

In 1983 the Lake Hills Subdivision, including the applicant's building site, Lot 5, was zoned C-3, General Commercial. Multifamily residential development was listed as a conditional use in this zoning district. However, the land use code, at that time, did not designate an upper limit to the density that would be permitted.

The Planning Commission, through the Conditional Use permit process (CU-9-83), approved a 56 unit multifamily residential development for the 12 lots in the Lake Hills Subdivision. This overall density limit was imposed by indicating on the plat the number of dwelling units allowed on each lot within the subdivision. Attachment A is a copy of the recorded plat for the Lake Hills Subdivision which shows the number of dwellings, the density allowed per acre, and the current land use for each lot.

In 1987, the zoning for this subdivision was changed from C-3, General Commercial, to D-15, Multifamily Residential. The density previously established with Conditional Use Permit CU-9-83 is somewhat higher than would be allowed under D-15 zoning. However, due to the fact that properties within this subdivision have already been developed under the guidelines of CU-9-83, the remaining vacant lots can continue to be developed under these same guidelines, including the higher density. The subject parcel, Lot 5 Lake Hills Subdivision, can be developed with a 6-plex dwelling unit even though the current zoning of D-15, Multifamily would only allow a 4-plex.

The applicant has already constructed a two unit dwelling on Lot 5. This structure meets all setback and density standards. However, the planned use is a two-unit common wall development. To complete the transition of the existing structure into a common wall dwelling, the parcel must be subdivided into two separate lots, with each lot meeting specific lot size and dimensional standards.

This is where the problem has come about. The applicant has shown the Lot 5 being subdivided into Lot 5A and Lot 5B, with the new property line down the middle of the existing structure.

(See Attachment B) As shown, the required minimum lot width of 30 feet at the front of the building cannot be met for proposed Lot 5B. The resulting width of Lot 5B would be 27.21 feet. The width of proposed Lot 5A would be 32.13 feet, exceeding the minimum standard. Without a variance to this required width, the existing two-unit dwelling could not be converted into a common wall dwelling.

It should be noted that the Land Use Code (Code) was amended in 1998 to correct an error in the description of the multifamily zoning districts in the section of the code dealing with common wall developments. Prior to this code revision the three multifamily zoning districts were listed as D-7, D-10, and D15 (e.g. D-7 = a density of 7 dwellings per acre) These multi-family zoning districts originated from a draft version of the Code. The Assembly, in adopting the final version of the Code changed the multifamily zoning districts to D-10, D-15, and D-18, thereby increasing the allowable densities.

The following table reflects the changes that were made to the common wall standards to conform with the rest of the code:

(1) Minimum Lot Size:

  • D-7 D-10 Residential District, 5,000 square feet;

    D-10 D-15 Residential District, 3,500 square feet;

    D-15 D-18 Residential District, 2,500 square feet;

  • (2) Minimum Lot Width: Lot width may be measured at either the front building line as defined by the code or at the actual front line of the building

  • D-7 D-10 Residential District, 40 feet;

    D-10 D-15 Residential District, 30 feet;

  • D-15 D-18 Residential District, 20 feet;

    Although, these older references to the multifamily districts were deleted, the corresponding lot width and lot sizes were not updated. These lot size and width standards were originally developed to allow flexibility and conform to the density allowed in each of the multifamily zoning districts. The result is that these standards are somewhat more restrictive than originally intended and could be revised to better match the higher densities that are now allowed.

    As can be seen by looking at the table of lot width lot for common wall development, the minimum lot width at the front of the building for the D-15 zoning district was 20 feet. With the revisions to code the lot width was increased to a minimum width of 30 feet. This is the section of the Code that the applicant is requesting relief. The proposal meets all other dimensional and density standards.

    The applicant has stated that the basis for this error is related to topography of the site (See Attachment C). The building was constructed toward the front of the lot to avoid the steep grade toward the rear of the lot, and the extra cost for construction of a foundation near a steep slope. The building was also positioned to one side with width of proposed Lot 5B equaling 27.21 feet and Lot 5A equaling 32.13 feet, exceeding the minimum.

    ANALYSIS

    Variance Requirements

    Under CBJ 49.20.250 where hardship and practical difficulties result from an extraordinary situation or unique physical feature affecting only a specific parcel of property or structures lawfully existing thereon and render it difficult to carry out the provisions of Title 49, the Board of Adjustment may grant a variance in harmony with the general purpose and intent of Title 49. A variance may vary any requirement or regulation of Title 49 concerning dimensional and other design standards, but not those concerning the use of land or structures, housing density, lot coverage, or those establishing construction standards. A variance may be granted after the prescribed hearing and after the Board of Adjustment has determined:

  • 1. That the relaxation applied for or a lesser relaxation specified by the Board of Adjustment would give substantial relief to the owner of the property involved and be more consistent with justice to other property owners.

    A lessor relaxation for the required minimum lot width at the front of the building for proposed Lot 5B would not give any relief. The building is built, and the standard cannot be met for this lot as it is platted. If the relief requested is not granted the existing building could not be used as a common wall dwelling development, which is the desired use of the lot by the owner. The applicant favors common wall development because it more marketable, is affordable, and is preferable to trying to build on this site at a higher density.

    Therefore, we recommend that the Board of Adjustment find that this criterion is met.

    2. That relief can be granted in such a fashion that the intent of this title will be observed and the public safety and welfare be preserved.

    In general, the intent of the Land Use Code is to ensure future growth and development is in accord with the value of its residents, to identify and secure the beneficial impacts of growth while minimizing the negative impacts, and to ensure that growth is of the appropriate type, design and location. The grant of the variance request generally conforms to the intentions of the Land Use Code. The variances allow the development of a common wall development, at one-third the density than is allowed under the existing Conditional Use permit. Common wall development also will allow each half of the building to be under individual ownership.

    The building itself meets all other dimensional standards including front, side, and rear yard setbacks. The overall width at the front of the building is 59.34 very close to the total of 60 feet needed for both lots.

    Under these circumstances, granting the variance would observe the intent of this title and the public safety and welfare would be preserved.

    Staff finds that this criterion is met.

    3. That the authorization of the variance will not injure nearby property.

    We find no evidence to suggest that the authorization of the variance will injure nearby property.

    Staff finds that this criterion is met.

    4. That the variance does not authorize uses not allowed in the district involved.

    The primary use of the lot is a common wall structure, which is allowed in a D-15, Multifamily-zoning district.

    Staff finds that this criterion is met.

    5. That compliance with the existing standards would:

  • (A) Unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permissible principal use;

    The grant of a variance would allow the applicant to convert the existing two-unit structure into a common wall development as planned. Without a variance to required minimum lot width the use would be limited to a duplex. Also additional dwelling units could be added.

     The site can lawfully be developed with 6 dwellings. This proposal is to develop a two unit common wall development which is 1/3 the density allowed. This will also result in individual ownership of each of the dwellings. Based on these facts, and the discussion regarding the common wall dimensional standards in the analysis section, staff would find that denial of the variance would unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permissible principal use.

    Staff finds that this subcriterion is met.

    (B) Unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property in a manner which is consistent as to scale, amenities, appearance or features, with existing development in the neighborhood of the subject property;

    The grant of a variance would allow the applicant to covert the existing two-unit structure to a common wall development as planned. As noted above this will result in 1/3 the allowable density and individual ownership. Without the variance to lot width the use would be limited use as a duplex, or additional units added.

    A number of properties in this area are developed as multi family dwellings. They are located further back on the lots and provide parking in the front. However, variances were granted to reduce the front yard setback, minimum lot size, and minimum lot width at the front of the building, to allow construction of a two unit common wall development on the adjoining lot, Lot 4 (See Attachment D). The situation with Lot 4 is similar to this proposal, the density is lower than allowed, the dwellings are individually owned, and the structure located closer to the front of the lot. This development proposal was considered to be consistent with the development in the neighborhood and the variances were approved.

    Based on these facts, and the discussion regarding the situation with the common wall dimensional standards in the analysis section, staff finds that denial of this request would unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property in a manner which is consistent as to scale, amenities, appearance or features, with existing development in the neighborhood of the subject property.

    Staff finds that this subcriterion is met.

    (C) Be unnecessarily burdensome because unique physical features of the property render compliance with the standards unreasonably expensive;

    This property has a very steep drop to the rear of the site. As noted above, the building was located toward the front of the lot to avoid this steep grade and the extra expense of foundation construction close to a steep slope. Although the topography of the site is a factor, it appears that the minimum width of the lot at the front of the building could have been met, for both lots, with a minor modification to the building position, while still avoiding the steeper areas of the site. The proposal shows that the width of proposed Lot 5B at 27.21 feet, the width of proposed lot 5A at 32.13. The total width of the lot at the front of the building is 59.4 feet, or approximately 8 inches short of meeting the standard. A shift of the building to one side and only slightly towards the rear would have allowed the standard to be met.  

    Staff finds that this subcriterion is not met.

  • or

  • (D) Because of preexisting nonconforming conditions on the subject parcel the grant of the variance would not result in a net decrease in overall compliance with the Land Use Code, CBJ Title 49, or the building code, CBJ Title 19, or both.

    We are unaware of any pre-existing nonconforming conditions on the subject parcel in regard to the Land Use Code or the building code.

    Staff finds that sub-criterion (D) does not apply.

    Staff finds that Criterion 5 is met because Sub-Criterion (A) and (B) are met.

    6. That a grant of the variance would result in more benefits than detriments to the neighborhood.

    The building currently meets all setback and density standards and can remain as constructed.

     Granting the variances allows this structure to be completed as a common wall development at 1/3 of the density than is allowed under the existing Conditional Use permit. Common wall development also will permit each dwelling to be individually owned which is considered to be desirable for upkeep and appearance of the building.

    Staff finds that this criterion is met.

  • JUNEAU COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

    The proposed development was reviewed for compliance with CBJ 49.70.900, the Juneau Coastal Management Program. The analysis reveals that no provisions of the program apply to the proposed development.

    FINDINGS

    CBJ 49.20.240, Board of Adjustment Action, states that the Board of Adjustment shall hear all variance requests and shall either approve, conditionally approve, modify or deny the request based on the criteria in CBJ 49.20.250.

    Under CBJ 49.20.220, Scheduling and Fee, the director makes the following determination:

  • 1. Is the application for the requested variance complete?

    Yes. The application for the requested variance is complete and contains the information necessary for the Board of Adjustment, per CBJ 49.20.230, to either approve, conditionally approve, modify or deny the requested variance based on the criteria found in CBJ 49.20.250.

    Under CBJ 49.70.900 (b)(3), General Provisions, the director makes the following Juneau Coastal Management Program consistency determination:

     2. Will the proposed development comply with the Juneau Coastal Management Program?

    Not Applicable. The proposed development was reviewed for compliance with CBJ 49.70.900, the Juneau Coastal Management Program. The analysis reveals that no provisions of the program apply to the request.

    3. Does the variance as requested, meet the criteria of Section 49.20.250 Grounds for Variances?

    No. Based on the preceding analysis, the director finds that the variance request does meet all six criteria provided for under CBJ 49.25.250

  • RECOMMENDATION

    We recommend that the Board of Adjustment adopt the director's findings and staff analysis which conclude that criteria #1-6 are met and approve the request to reduce, the minimum lot width at the front of the building from 30 feet to 27. 21 feet for proposed Lot 5B , Lake Hills Subdivision to allow the existing two-unit structure to be developed as a common wall dwelling.

    1. That if this variance request is approved, that the resulting plat subdividing Lot 5 note the variance request and approval.