DATE: May 15, 2001

TO: Planning Commission

FROM: Teri Camery, Planner
Community Development Department

FILE NO.: VAR2001-00014

PROPOSAL: A variance for construction of a 24’ x 24’ two-story garage 2 feet from the front yard setback where 10 feet is required.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

Applicant: Ryan Johnston

Property Owner: William F. Baxandall

Property Address: 815 4th Street, Douglas

Legal Description: Douglas Block 31 Lot 1

Parcel Code Number: 2-D04-0-T31-001-0

Site Size: 5,000 square feet

Zoning: D-5 Single-Family/Duplex Residential

Utilities: CBJ Water & Sewer

Access: C Street, Douglas

Existing Land Use: Single-Family Dwelling

Surrounding Land Use: North - Fourth Street

South - Fifth Street

East - single-family residence

West - C Street/Mt. Jumbo Gym

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The applicant proposes construction of a 24’ x 24’, 22 foot high two-story garage, two feet from the front yard setback, facing C Street where 10 feet is required.

BACKGROUND

The subject parcel is on a double-frontage lot in the Tyee Addition of the old Douglas Townsite. According to Assessor’s Office records, Mr. Baxandall’s home was originally constructed in 1907. The majority of homes in this neighborhood were built before 1930. Mr. Baxandall’s lot size and residence setbacks are legally non-conforming. The single-family residence on this lot has front setbacks of 1 foot and 1.2 feet on C Street and Fourth St. (Attachments A and B). For future construction, the front setback has been reduced to ten feet and the rear setback has been reduced to 11.8 feet, per CBJ Code 49.25.430 (4)(J) and (4) (I) respectively, due to substandard setbacks throughout this old neighborhood.

Mr. Baxandall was issued a building permit on April 17, 2001 to construct a garage ten feet from the property line as required. After neighbors objected to the placement of the garage because it would block their view, Mr. Baxandall agreed to apply for a variance to move the garage two feet from the setback to protect their view. Neighbors Joe and Sandy Craig have paid the $350.00 application fee.

ANALYSIS

Substandard setbacks exist throughout this old neighborhood, and the majority of residences are built within a few feet of property lines. As noted, Mr. Baxandall’s home is built 1.2 feet from C Street. Placing the new garage two feet from the street rather than ten feet as required brings the two structures into closer alignment and creates a development more visually compatible with the historical pattern and design of the neighborhood.

Placement of the garage within the required ten-foot setback will directly block the view of Gastineau Channel of upland neighbors Joe and Sandy Craig. Moving the garage two feet from the property line preserves this view. All neighbors adjacent to the Baxandall property have submitted letters in support of the variance request (Attachments D-H).

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.

The proposed development was reviewed for:

  1. hardship and practical difficulties resulting from an extraordinary situation
  2. or
  3. hardship and practical difficulty resulting from a unique physical feature affecting only a specific parcel of property, rendering it difficult to carry out the provisions of Title 49.

Our review considered the area of the lot as well as the development pattern of the neighborhood. Staff finds hardship and practical difficulty in maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood and preserving the channel view of upland neighbors, due to the extraordinary situation of a neighborhood built in the early 1900s with minimal and sometimes no setbacks. Staff has not found evidence of a unique physical feature affecting the parcel. Based on hardship and practical difficulty, we conclude that this variance request does meet the Grounds for Variances, as established in CBJ 49.20.250 (b). This code provision is required to be met prior to a Board of Adjustment application consideration.

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 provides substantial relief to the property owner by allowing him to construct a garage visually in line with his home and preserving the unique character of his lot and neighborhood. A lesser relaxation would bring the proposed garage farther out of alignment with the existing home. The relaxation applied for is consistent with justice to other property owners as substandard setbacks exist throughout this neighborhood where homes were primarily constructed from 1900 through the 1930s. 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.

The intent of Title 49 is established in Section 49.05.100 Purpose and Intent. Those sections, which are applicable to the requested variance, are as follows:

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 residences, 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 stated goals, and specifically supports goal #2, to ensure that future growth and development in the city and borough is in accord with the values of its residents. Due to the predominance of substandard setbacks in this historical neighborhood, the variance preserves historical character while preserving the valued channel view of residents. Neighboring property owners have written letters stating their support of the proposal, and staff finds no additional impacts to public safety and welfare. Therefore this criterion is met.

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

No evidence indicates that authorization of the variance will injure nearby property. All adjacent property owners have given their written notice of support. This criterion is met.

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

A two-story garage is an authorized use in the D-5 district. 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. The owner may construct a two-story garage within the required setback.

(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. Substandard setbacks exist throughout this neighborhood. The majority of homes are built up to or within a few feet of streets and property lines. Denial of the variance would prevent the owner from using the property in a manner consistent with appearance and features of development in the neighborhood.

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

No. No evidence indicates that the property has any unique physical features.

or

(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. The subject parcel has substandard setbacks and a substandard lot depth as determined by CBJ 49.25.430 (4) (J) and (4) (I). The existing carport, which is two feet from the property line, will be replaced with the proposed two-story garage. Thus a grant of the variance would not result in a net decrease in overall compliance.

Staff determines that Subcriterion B and D of Criterion Five are met, therefore Criterion Five is met.

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

Attachments D-H document that adjacent property owners are in support of the variance and indicate that a grant of the variance will preserve the channel view of upland owners and preserve the historical character of the neighborhood, resulting in more benefits than detriments. We find no detriments to the neighborhood associated with this variance request. This criterion is met.

JUNEAU COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

Staff has reviewed the development for compliance with the JCMP and found that no enforceable provisions of the JCMP apply.

FINDINGS

  1. Is the application for the requested variance complete?
  2. Yes. We find that application for the requested variance is has all required application forms, fees, and drawings.
  3. 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 finds that the proposal meets all criterion of Section 49.20.250, Grounds for Variances.

RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that the Board of Adjustment adopt the director’s analysis and findings and grant the requested variance, which would allow construction of a 24’ x 24’ garage two feet from the C Street setback at 815 4th Street, Douglas.