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Fourth time is the charm for approval of variance on Rosewood duplex

Thursday, October 6, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves

Agent Jim Bennett had to take his case on Curtis Avenue to the Residential Design and Compatibility Commission four times before he got approval for increased floor-to-area ratios on a two-story duplex.


Vice Chair Karen McGraw and Commissioner Mary Ingle were still holdouts on the variance, which passed on a 5-2 vote last night. Ingle, one of the newest members to the commission, found the plans suspect, especially a decision to create a home with a study and closet that was the same size as the other three bedrooms. Ingle called the construction something of a “stealth dorm.”


“If it were being used as a bedroom, it would trigger additional parking,” McGraw said of the study marked on the plans. “I just have a concern about this because I’ve seen this type of development in my area. This raises a red flag for me, and I’m sorry about that.”


The Horne family had purchased three adjacent lots on Curtis Avenue, promising to create a sort of “family compound.” The other two lots won fairly easy approval, but the property at 2205 Curtis Ave. was delayed repeatedly. Bennett’s request was to increase the floor-to-area ratio from 40 percent to 50 percent, from 2,803 square feet to 3,504 square feet of space.


Despite the concerns expressed by commissioners, the Rosewood contact team sided with the Horne family. Only one neighbor protested the variance, and that neighbor was not on the same street. McGraw, however, sided with Ingle, noting the city land use code had no reasonable definition of a bedroom.


“When you write the word ‘study,’ that piece of code (on bedrooms) can’t be enforced,” McGraw said. “I have the same concern, but I see that the contact team supports this, which is kind of baffling. I hope they know what they’re really, really looking at.”


Commissioners discussed the possibility of requiring one additional parking space as part of the plan. That failed to pass the test with the applicant team because a large tree needed to be protected on the lot.


“We wanted to protect and build around the trees,” Bennett said. “Additionally, the neighborhood association said they are trying to get sustainable families to live in their neighborhood. That was part of their reason to support this. It would be a family-type unit, and that’s what the neighbors want as well.”


Chair William Burkhardt voted in favor of the variance, but he admitted he did it with much trepidation.


“I’m going to vote for this, but it’s the most reluctant vote I’ve ever cast,” Burkhardt said. “But you’ve got the documentation, you’ve got support from the contact team, and I’m sure they don’t know what they are getting, apparently.”

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