DATE:                 July 18, 2001

TO:                      Board of Adjustment

FROM:               Sylvia A. Kreel, Planner
                             Community Development Department

FILE NO.:           VAR2001-00018

PROPOSAL:     A Variance to allow a portion of a building to have a height of 65 feet where the code has a height restriction of 35 feet.



Applicant:                         Tim Mearig

Property Owner:               Juneau Christian Center

Property Address:             8001 Glacier Highway, Juneau

Legal Description:             USS 1852

Parcel Code Number:       5-B14-0-102-001-0

Site Size:                          11.45 acres

Zoning:                             D5 - Single - Family/ Duplex Residential

Utilities:                            CBJ Water & Sewer

Access:                            Glacier Highway

Existing Land Use:           Church facility

Surrounding Land Use: North - Glacier Highway; Single-family residential; zoned D-5
                                    South - Egan Drive; Vacant; zoned RR
                                    East - Animal shelter; zoned D-15
                                    West - Yandukin Drive; Commercial; zoned LC


The applicant is requesting a variance to allow a portion of a structure to be 65 feet above grade in the D-5 zoning district where the land use code limits the height to 35 feet. This request is being made in conjunction with a request for a conditional use permit for the expansion of a church and the supporting facilities. The submittal notes that the current facilities encompass approximately 40,065 square feet of floor space which includes a multi purpose room which serves as both the sanctuary and the gymnasium, a school wing, an office wing, foyer, pump house and 2 portable buildings. The current sanctuary has a seating capacity for 600 seats.

The proposed addition will require removal of the existing lobby and office wing and will add approximately 38,500 square feet on two levels. A new sanctuary will be constructed with seating for 750 on the ground level and a balcony accommodating an additional 375 seats. Total capacity will be 1,125 seats. Additionally, new lobby space, office suite, and nursery wing will be included within the addition. The completed facility will total approximately 74,000 square feet.

The existing buildings which will be retained vary in height from 20 feet to 35 feet. The new sanctuary, or auditorium, which is proposed as part of the remodel and expansion is designed such that it rises up to a height of 65 feet at its most southern end. As it rises in elevation, its width tapers down.

The sanctuary includes seating for 1,125 people; a back stage area; projection room; a mechanical room; lighting; microphone room and catwalks to access the different features. The applicant explains in his letter that the additional height is needed to accommodate the proposed sanctuary with seating for 1125. The following reasons are presented.


The proposed development was reviewed for:

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

The applicant has applied for the variance in order to accomplish his goal of providing an auditorium with seating capacity for 1125 with good sightlines and acoustics. The auditorium needs are noted above. There is no doubt that an auditorium with this capacity would be difficult to accomplish within a 35-foot height limit, without sacrificing some of the desired features. However, the fact that the applicant can not accomplish his objective within the 35-foot height limit is not a result of any unique physical features or extraordinary situations associated with the property. Rather, it is a function of the design criteria established by the applicant and his client.

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.

The relaxation applied for would allow the applicant to use the current design. The current design meets their program needs. It may in fact be difficult to accommodate a high quality auditorium which could accommodate 1,125 people within the 35-foot height limit. As such, the relaxation applied for would provide the applicant substantial relief.

The height of the structure could be lowered by eliminating features of the auditorium, such as the balcony or the mechanical room or the projection screen. This would make the project more consistent with justice provided to other property owners. However, it would not provide the applicant the desired effect or features of the auditorium proposed.

We 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 summary, the intent of Title 49 is to ensure that growth and development is in accord with the values of Juneau’s residents; to identify and secure the beneficial impacts of growth while minimizing the negative impacts; to ensure that future growth is of the appropriate type, design and location; to provide adequate open space for light and air; and to recognize the economic value of land and encourage its proper and beneficial use.

Height restrictions, as well as setbacks, support the intent of Title 49 by ensuring citizens a certain degree of access to light and air. It is possible that the proposed project will reduce the amount of sunlight the residential units across Glacier Highway receive. However, the section of the roof, which exceeds the height limit, is more than 340 feet from the residences across Glacier Highway. The amount of sun, which would be blocked, is not significant enough to consider that it limits access to light and air.

We find that this criterion is met.

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

The closest residential unit is located across Glacier Highway, minimally 340 feet away from the portion of the addition which exceeds the height limits. The authorization of the requested variances will reduce the neighboring residents’ mountain view and availability of sunlight. However, as noted by the applicant, the proposed auditorium is aligned directly south of the existing multipurpose building. The disruption of the view plane is concentrated in one area rather than spread throughout the site. Additionally, the roof shape tapers as it goes up, so the impact lessens as it rises. These features and the distance between the residences and the addition mitigate the impacts to the neighbors.

We find that this criterion is met.

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

The variance will authorize the development of a church in the D-5 zoning district. The approval is subject to obtaining a Conditional Use permit. The applicant is currently in the review process for the conditional use permit.

We find that this criterion is met subject to approval of USE2001-00024.

5. That compliance with the existing standards would:

    1. Unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permissible principal use;

No. The existing church is a principal permissible use of the property. As such, compliance would not prevent the lot from being used as it currently exists, or even with an addition.

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;

No. Compliance may require the applicant to redesign the proposal and to possibly scale down the development. However, compliance would not unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property in a manner that is consistent as to scale, amenities and appearance with existing development in the neighborhood of the subject property. None of the lots in the surrounding area exceed the 35-foot height limit. Even the larger developments in the area, such as Fred Meyer, are within the height limit.

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

No. There are no unique physical features associated with the property that render compliance with the standards unreasonably expensive. The lot is 11.45 acres and relatively flat. An alternative configuration of the development might prove to be more expensive. However, it is the applicant’s design criteria, and not the property which is dictating the design and necessitates the variance.


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.

No. There are no non-conforming conditions associated with this site.

As none of the sub-criterion can be met, we find that this criterion is not met.

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

While the proposed facility may result in a benefit to the community, the variance to the height standards will result in a detriment to the neighborhood. For the residents across Glacier Highway, the proposed project will reduce their views of the mountains and may possibly block the sun, when it is low in the sky. This impact is limited to only a few homes and is limited in nature due to the distance between the addition and the residences and the tapered design of the roof. However, for those residents which it does impact, the grant of the variance will result in greater detrainments than benefits to the neighborhood.

We find that this criterion is not met.


The Juneau Coastal Management Program has been reviewed for applicability. The provisions of the JCMP do not apply to this request.


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 submitted 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 July 13, 2001. Public notice was mailed to owners of record for all properties 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. The provisions of the JCMP do not apply to this request.

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

No. The variance as requested does not meet criterion 5 and 6 of section §49.20.250.


Staff recommends that the Board of Adjustment adopt the staff analysis and the Director’s findings which conclude that the grounds for variances, specifically criteria 5 and 6, are not met, and deny the requested variance to allow a portion of a building to have a height of 65 feet where the code has a height restriction of 35 feet.