DATE: May 11, 2001

TO: Planning Commission

FROM: Oscar Graham, Planner
Community Development Department

FILE NO.: VAR2001-00013

PROPOSAL: A variance to rear setback to allow a 2-story residential addition within approximately 11 feet of the rear property line where the required setback is 25 feet. The need for the variance is a result of a plat amendment which caused setback reference points to change.


Applicant: Jeffrey & Heather Gregory

Property Owner: Jeffrey & Heather Gregory

Property Address: 11840 Mendenhall Loop Road Juneau, AK

Legal Description: LAKE CREEK, Lot 3

Parcel Code Number: 4-B27-0-103-002-3

Site Size: 41,336 Square Feet

Zoning: D-3 Single – Family / Duplex Residential

Utilities: CBJ Water & Sewer

Access: Mendenhall Loop Road

Existing Land Use: Single Family Residence

Surrounding Land Use: North - Vacant

South - Single family residence

East - Lake Creek/Raymond Subdivision

West - Vacant



The subject proposal is to construct a two story addition to an existing single family residence. The addition will measure 30 by 32 feet with a footprint of 960 square feet. The proposal will include a 10 by 30 foot porch. The residential addition would extend 30 feet along the northern (rear) property line at a distance of approximately 11 feet from the rear property line. The addition will extend the existing gabled roofline configuration and floorplan.

The required rear yard setback is 25 feet. The existing residence was built in conformance with setback requirements. The rear property line was considered the side property line at the time the existing residence was constructed. Since then, setback reference points have changed such that the side property line is now considered the rear property line and the existing residence represents a lawfully established nonconforming structure. Therefore a rear yard variance is required to construct the addition at the same setback as the existing residence. It should be noted however that the non-conformity associated with the existing residence does not predate the applicable dimensional standards of Title 49 but results instead from an interpretation of what constitutes the rear property line.


The Planning Commission approved Final Plat FP-03-91 at the regular meeting held on August 13, 1991. The Plat was recorded under number 91-69. The staff report for FP-03-91 refers to the conditions of preliminary plat approval specifically:

3. In addition to indicated plat notes, the plat shall include a note to the effect that lines of proposed lots 1 and 4 adjacent to the panhandles shall be regarded as front lines for setback purposes. The plat may also be required to graphically show the setbacks particular to this development to facilitate possible future development of a public road.

A plat note was also included on the map reading:

Special setback for future public road.

The setback lines are shown on the plat map and extend the length of lots 1 through 4 of the subdivision.

A subsequent amendment to the plat was approved under SUB2000-00009 by the Planning Commission at the regular meeting of May 9, 2000. The amendment request was filed by the owners of lots 1 through 4. The amendment vacated the special setback lines to ease building restrictions on the lots. An unintended effect of this amendment was the changed setback reference points described above under project description. The changing points of reference resulted in the requirement of the subject variance request. It should be noted that the applicant was apparently unaware of the implications that the plat amendment would have on future additions to the residence. No discussion or assessment of changing reference points for calculating setbacks was provided in the staff report.



Given the nonconforming location of the existing residential structure it appears that the proposed addition is reasonable and well conceived. The addition will extend the existing gabled roofline configuration, remain functionally linked to the existing floorplan and maintain the existing rear yard setback while comply with the front yard and side yard setbacks and other dimensional standards requirements of Section 49.25.400.

Building staff have reviewed the proposal and determined that it is in compliance with the dimensional standards required under Title 19 of the CBJ Code.

Variance Requirements

Under CBJ'49.20.250 (b): 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.

The proposed development was reviewed for:

Staff reviewed the nature and type of hardship and practical difficulties documented in the application. Staff agrees that a hardship and practical difficulties exist. The hardship is based on the lawful location of the existing residence. The practical difficulties are associated with the need to construct an addition in conjunction with the existing residence which though lawfully established is now located inside of the required rear yard setback. The hardship and practical difficulties represent an extraordinary situation affecting only a specific property and render it difficult to carry out the provisions of Title 49. Staff has determined that the variance process represents an appropriate remedy to the hardship.

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.

The relaxation applied for would give substantial relief to the property owner by providing approval to construct an addition to the existing residence at the current rear yard setback of approximately 11 feet. The relaxation would be consistent with justice to other property owners in that the existing residence was constructed in conformance with setbacks applicable at that time. The increased rear yard setback is required after construction of the existing residence and is the result of changing points of setback reference resulting from a lawfully executed plat amendment. 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.

  1. To achieve the goals and objectives and implement the policies of the Juneau Comprehensive Plan and the coastal management program;
  2. To ensure that future growth and development in the city and borough is in accord with the values of its residents;
  3. To identify and secure, for present and future residents, the beneficial impacts of growth while minimizing the negative impacts;
  4. To ensure that future growth is of the appropriate type, design, and location and is served by a proper range of public services and facilities such as water, sewage, and electrical distribution systems, transportation, schools, parks and other public requirements, and in general to promote public health, safety and general welfare;
  5. To provide adequate open space for light and air; and
  6. To recognize the economic value of land and encourage its proper and beneficial use.

The proposed variance does not violate any of the above referenced goals and is specifically supported goal #6. By constructing the proposed addition the property owners will be able to provide an expanded residential area that is practically located, extends the existing roofline, is functionally linked to the existing floorplan and maintains the existing rear yard setback. This criterion is met.

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

The authorization of the variance will provide for expansion of the existing residence along an additional 30 feet of the rear property line. While the proposed addition will not encroach further into the setback it will extend the encroachment along an additional area of the property line. The property to the north which shares the subject property line is currently vacant. Lots in this vicinity are generally relatively large. Based on adjacent residential densities, no substantial injury to nearby properties is anticipated. This criterion is met.

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

The subject variance would not authorize a use not allowed in the R-3 Zoning District. Section 49.25.210 (b) provides specifically for single family and duplex residential development. 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;

No. While it may be argued that compliance with existing standards for the proposed addition would unreasonably limit the scale of the proposed addition, compliance would not prevent use of the property for its permissible primary use. The existing nonconforming residence constitutes the permissible use.

(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;

Yes. Compliance with the existing standards is not possible considering the non-conforming nature of the existing residence. Additionally compliance with existing standards for the proposed addition would require the structure to be built in an impractical manner relative to the roofline, floorplan and configuration of the existing structure. While it may be possible to construct the addition in conformance with existing standards, such conformance would result in a residence that is inconsistent with the amenities and appearance of similar residential development within the neighborhood.

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

No. There are no physical features of the property, which render compliance with the standards unreasonably expensive.


(D) Because of pre-existing 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.

Yes. Because of the location of the existing non-conforming residential structure (within the required rear yard setback area) the proposed addition is not considered to result in a decrease in overall compliance with the CBJ Land Use or Building Codes.

Staff have determined that the request meets (B) and (D) of the subcriterion. This criterion is met.

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

Because of the location of the existing non-conforming structure within the required rear yard setback area and the relatively large lots in the vicinity, the granting of the subject variance is not considered likely to represent a detriment to the neighborhood. By constructing the addition to extend the existing roofline and incorporate the floorplan the residence could be seen as a design benefit for the neighborhood at large. This criterion is met.


Staff have reviewed the proposed development and determined that no enforceable provisions of the JCMP apply the proposal.


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. We find the application contains the information necessary to conduct a full review of the proposed operations. The application submittal by the applicant, including the appropriate fees, substantially conform to the requirements of CBJ code Chapters 49.15. Additionally, notice was provided in the Juneau Empire under Your Municipality which ran on May 11 and 21, 2001. Notice was mailed to owners of record of all property within 500 feet of the subject property.

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.

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

Staff has determined that the requested variance meets criteria 1-6


We recommend that the Board of Adjustment adopt the staff analysis and director’s findings, and approve the requested variance.