DATE: November 8, 2000
TO: Planning Commission
FROM: Teri Camery, Planner
Community Development Department
FILE NO.: SUB2000-00036
PROPOSAL: A plat amendment request to vacate 9.4 feet of a 20 foot existing easement adjacent to the Cohen Drive right-of-way for placement of a detached garage.
Applicant: Heidi Brocious
Property Owner: Heidi & Todd Brocious
Property Address: 19880 Cohen Drive
Legal Description: Lot 5, Block 3, Tee Harbor Sub.
Parcel Code No.: 8-B37-0-103-014-0
Site Size: 33,541 Square Feet
Zoning: D-1, Single-Family/Duplex
Utilities: No CBJ Water; Septic Sewer
Access: Cohen Drive
Existing Land Use: Partially developed lot for proposed single-family home and detached
Surrounding Land Use: North - D-1 single-family/duplex/residential
South - D-1 single-family/duplex/residential
East - D-1 single-family/duplex/residential
West - D-1 single-family/duplex/residential
The applicant is requesting a vacation of 9.4 feet of a 20-foot existing easement adjacent to the 60-foot Cohen Drive right-of-way for placement of a detached garage. The applicant is planning to build a home and will build the garage first for use as a storage and staging area. The siting of the garage is limited due to topographic features, the presence of bedrock on the property, and a steep grade from the road. This has forced the garage site within the easement. The applicant has obtained a building permit for both the garage and the driveway. However, those permits were issued for plans submitted before the garage and driveway location were altered and are not valid for the current proposal.
The placement of the garage involves two planning issues. One is encroachment into the easement. The other is setbacks. The easement encroachment is the only concern with this development, as the garage is within allowed setbacks. CBJ Land Use Code 49.25.430 (G) establishes criteria for reducing the garage setback to five feet. The applicant meets criterion (G) (I) which states, "the topography, shape, or size of the lot make construction a hardship." Therefore placement of the garage within the easement is in compliance with setback regulations and does not require a variance.
The question is whether placement of the garage within the easement will be an obstacle for future widening of Cohen Drive and thus whether the full width of the easement is necessary. The applicant has documented the presence of bedrock on the property, which would lesson width requirements for roadway widening since a sharp, steep slope could be developed instead of the gradual slope that is required with ordinary soils.
CBJ Land Surveyor, Terry Brenner, concurs with this analysis and agrees that the full width of the easement is not required for placement of the garage. However, the placement of the garage dictates the placement of the driveway, which may create a serious problem later. According to Mr. Brenner, Cohen Drive will be improved and widened in the future due to the number of homes in the area and the need to make emergency services accessible. The quarter mile section of Cohen Drive accessing the subject property is a steep and narrow dirt path on a slope. Blasting the road for widening will leave the garage perched on a cliff and may prohibit driveway access. According to Mr. Brenner’s analysis, "future improvements to Cohen Drive, even to minimum width standards, would make the present driveway to the garage unusable as the grade would be approaching 30 percent." (See attached October 16, 2000 memorandum from Terry Brenner.) Mr. Brenner initially recommended a condition on the vacation request calling for construction of a driveway that would be compatible with future roadway construction.
The Subdivision Review Committee discussed the proposal with staff and the applicant on October 20, 2000. The important question addressed at this meeting was whether the easement and the driveway are related. Committee members concluded that they are separate issues, but acknowledged that the position of the driveway could be a problem for widening the road in the future and potentially place a financial burden on the city. A motion was passed unanimously to approve the easement request while adding a plat note or similar feature stating that "the property owner shall bear 50 percent of driveway modification costs within the right-of-way incurred due to the widening of Cohen Drive." With the assistance of the Law Department, staff has researched the use of plat notes for this purpose. We have concluded that a plat note would not be traceable or enforceable, as both the cost and date of road widening are unknown and property ownership may change.
The Law Department concurs with Terry Brenner and the Subdivision Review Committee that the financial burden to the city may be exorbitant in the future and action to address this is appropriate. Staff believes that the placement of the garage dictates the placement of the driveway. Therefore, though placement of the garage within the easement is acceptable, driveway concerns must be addressed before granting the plat amendment.
The city is required to provide reasonable access to property when roads are widened. If Cohen Drive were widened, the city would have to reconstruct the driveway to its current grade of 13 percent, which would be extremely expensive. This would require blasting out bedrock and significantly lengthening the driveway parallel to the road, with guardrails, to maintain the grade. According to Mr. Brenner, maintaining the grade is what drives up the cost, and the cost goes up dramatically when reducing the grade from 20 to 10 percent.
As an alternative to the plat note recommended by the Subdivision Review Committee, staff and the Law Department recommend a formal agreement to be provided by the applicant. The agreement, which would be approved by the city attorney’s office and signed by the city manager, would state that if Cohen Drive were widened, the city would reconstruct the driveway to no less than a 20 percent grade. The property owner would bear all additional costs if he or she chose to further lower the grade. This recorded agreement would be binding to future owners. The applicant is amenable to this proposal and has submitted a draft agreement currently under review by the Law Department.
Staff has reviewed the proposal for compliance with the JCMP and found that no enforceable provisions of the JCMP apply.
Staff recommends granting the plat amendment to vacate 9.4 feet of the 20-foot easement for construction of a detached garage at 19880 Cohen Drive with the following condition:
The applicant will provide an agreement, acceptable to city attorney’s office and to be signed by the city manager, stating that if Cohen Drive is widened the city will reconstruct the driveway to no less than a 20 percent grade. The property owner will bear all additional costs if he or she chooses to further lower the grade.