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Council rejects panel’s ruling and gives couple OK to build second story

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 by Elizabeth Pagano

City Council overturned a panel’s ruling last week and sided with the owners of an Oakmont home who want to add a second floor but ran up against the city building code.

 

Owners Keri and Max Krupp sought permission to add a second-story dwelling above their detached garage at 3700 Lawton Avenue, which would have increased the structure’s floor-to-area ratio by 5.2 percent. The increase would have increased the property’s total floor-to-area to 45.2 percent – more than the 40 percent maximum allowed as part of the city’s efforts to limit building density on single-family lots. Council voted 5-2 to approve an appeal by the owners, with Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo voting no.

 

The case was originally heard by the Board of Adjustment, which deferred a decision to the Residential Design Compatibility Commission. The RDCC denied the request on a vote of 3-1, with three commissioners absent.

 

In a letter requesting the appeal after the RDCC’s denial, the consultant representing the owners, David Cancialosi of DCI Permitting and Land Consulting, cited absences by members of the commission as a factor. The case had been before the RDCC on two occasions: in January, only five commissioners were present, and at the February special-called meeting, only four commissioners were present. Four votes were required to approve the request.

 

“This today is hearing number six in eight months. The RDCC – this is not to disparage the voluntary time that they put forward on the commission – but they did seem a tad ill-prepared,” said Cancialosi.

 

Cancialosi called the decision by the commission “arbitrary and capricious,” saying it was based on the design of the primary house, not the garage.                                                                     

 

Cancialosi took exception to an RDCC request to demolish part of the primary house to decrease the property’s total foot-to-area ratio. The house was built in 2004, prior to the adoption of the McMansion ordinance.

 

“The homeowner feels like she is being penalized for a rule that now exists that wasn’t applicable at the time of construction,” said Cancialosi. “The RDCC is penalizing an inherited design. They have based their decision on that. They do have a history of approving much higher floor-to-area ratios for much less hardship.”

 

“The city is always touting, ‘we want inner-city development, owner-occupied property to be utilized to its highest and best use that promotes a family-friendly urban neighborhood,” said Cancialosi. “We’re only asking for 367 square feet, and at the end of the day we ask, what is the RDCC ruling on? Are they deciding what is best for their neighborhood, in their opinion? Or are they deciding what is best for the Oakmont neighborhood?”

 

Morrison stood by the commission’s ruling, saying, “The issue at hand is that we have a house that is already maxed out and the RDCC evaluation can take into account mitigating factors, in terms of the additional floor-to-area ratio that’s being added…. The point being that we don’t over-build single-family lots.”

 

Council Member Bill Spelman disagreed, saying, “As the RDCC can take into account mitigating circumstances, so can we, and in looking at the totality of the case it seems to me that I disagree with the RDCC.”

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