DATE:         July 17, 2001

TO:             Planning Commission

FROM:      Teri Camery, Planner
                    Community Development Department

FILE NO.: VAR2001-00022

PROPOSAL: A variance for a two-car garage, zero feet from the front setback where 25 feet is required.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Applicant:                      Fredrik V. Thorsteinson

Property Owner:            Fredrik V. Thorsteinson

Property Address:         2570 Fritz Cove Road

Legal Description:         USS 2672, Lot 14A

Parcel Code Number:   4-B18-0-100-016-0

Site Size:                      11,992 Square Feet

Zoning:                         D1 - Single Family / Duplex Residential

Utilities:                        CBJ Water & Sewer

Access:                         Fritz Cove Road

Existing Land Use:        Residential

Surrounding Land Use: North - residential
                                    South - residential
                                    East - Fritz Cove Road
                                    West - Auke Bay

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The applicant proposes construction of a 24’ x 24’ two-car garage, (32’ x 28’ with roof eaves), 16 feet high, zero feet from the front setback where 20.72 feet is required. The garage would encroach an additional ten feet into the right-of-way, which requires separate approval from DOT.

Current development on the site consists of a single-family dwelling along the waterfront at the bottom of approximately 100 steeply declining stairs descending from Fritz Cove Road. A fuel shed near the road will be removed for construction of the garage. The right-of-way in this section of the road extends 55 feet from the centerline. The proposed garage site will locate the face of the garage 35 feet from the edge of the traveled way. The applicant is currently parking along the road edge.

BACKGROUND

The side yard setback of the property has been adjusted from 15 feet to 9 feet, per CBJ Code §49.25.430(3)(I) due to substandard lot width. The front yard setback of the property has been adjusted from 25 feet to 20.72 feet, per CBJ Code §49.25.430(3)(J) due to existing substandard setbacks. At 11,992 square feet, the lot size is significantly substandard for the D-1 zone, which has a minimum lot size of 35,000 square feet.

ANALYSIS

Physical Features

The property has an immediate drop-off from the road. Fifteen feet from the road there is a small level area extending roughly 10 feet. After this point, the property has approximately a 30 percent slope before reaching the leveled area for the home (see Attachment A, site plan). The slope severely limits the options for a building site for the garage. Virtually any construction on the site will be costly and require piling. However construction of the garage in the proposed location takes advantage of the small-leveled area near the road and avoids the more severe slope farther from the road, which would make the cost prohibitive.

Neighborhood Structures

The adjacent property owner to the south has constructed a two-car garage 5.16 feet from the property line due to similar topographical considerations. This garage did not need a variance because it met the criteria of the garage exception, CBJ Code §49.25.430 (G), which allows construction of a garage within five feet of the property line. The applicant’s proposal does not meet this criteria because the garage is 16 feet high, and criteria list a maximum height of 15 feet. In addition the applicant requests a zero setback, therefore a variance would still be required. Except for the slight height difference, the neighbor’s garage and the applicant’s garage will be very similar in appearance and will be placed side by side with deference to side yard setbacks.

Staff site visits indicate a number of homes and garages built at or near the property line, just off the road, along this stretch of Fritz Cove Road heading north. All are visibly due to the steep slope of the property. These sites include a carport at 2630 Fritz Cove Road; a 3-car garage at 2660 Fritz Cove Road; single-family dwellings at 2710 and 2730 Fritz Cove Road; and a large garage and shed at 2770 Fritz Cove Road.

Safety considerations

The applicant does not have any garage at present and is forced to park along the edge of Fritz Cove Road. The proposed site will locate the face of the garage 35 feet from the edge of the traveled way. The applicant notes that the DOT clearing zone requirement is 13 feet, and removal of vehicles from the side of the road at this location will improve safety. In addition, vehicles parked in the garage will not have to back onto the roadway. Snow removal will be safer because snow removal vehicles will not have to back across traffic lanes to clear snow from around vehicles parked at the shoulder. (See applicant letter, Attachment B).

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 from the unique physical feature of the 30 percent slope of the lot. Based on this physical feature, 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 would allow construction of the garage within the area of the lot with least extreme slope. A lesser relaxation of the setback would move the garage farther into the area of the 30 percent slope. Other property owners in the area facing similar severe slopes on their lots have been allowed to place structures at or near their property lines. Therefore staff finds that the relaxation applied for would give substantial relief to the property owner and be more consistent with justice to other property owners.

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 identify and secure, for present and future residences, the beneficial impacts of growth while minimizing the negative impacts;
    2. 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;
    3. To provide adequate open space for light and air; and
    4. 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 #4, which encourages proper and beneficial use of the land by placing the garage on a less severe slope.

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.

This criterion is met.

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

A two-car garage is an allowable use in the D-1 district, therefore the variance does not authorize uses not allowed.

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;

A single-family dwelling is the principal use of the property. Compliance with standards does not unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for this purpose.

This sub-criterion is not 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;

Substandard front setbacks exist throughout the neighborhood of the subject property due to the preponderance of steep slopes in the area. Compliance would unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property consistent with amenities and features of existing development in the neighborhood.

This sub-criterion is met.

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

Placement of the garage within the required setback would place it within the steepest portion of the lot with a 30 percent grade, making construction costs prohibitively expensive. This unique physical feature renders compliance with standards unreasonably expensive.

This sub-criterion is 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.

Staff is unaware of any pre-existing non-conforming conditions on the subject parcel.

This sub-criterion is not met.

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

A grant of the variance would allow off-street parking for the residence, allowing improved site distance for adjacent lots and safer snow removal. Detriments are negligible due to a similar existing structure near the property line on the lot of the adjacent neighbor. Therefore the variance would result in more benefits than detriments to the neighborhood.

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?

Yes. The application meets all requirements.

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?

Due to the unique physical feature of the lot with the 30 percent slope, we find that the development meets the Grounds for Consideration of a variance, and meets all criteria for a variance.

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’ (32’ x 28’ with roof eaves), 16 foot high two car garage at 2570 Fritz Cove Road.