Board Of Adjustments Grants Variance

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By Terry Rogers

On Thursday, April 10, 2014, the City of Milford Board of Adjustments held a public hearing regarding a variance request from Lexi McFassel, a homeowner, who lies on South Walnut Street. Ms. McFassel’s request was to build a garage that was higher than the 15 feet permitted for accessory buildings than was permitted by city ordinance.

“Ms. McFassel applied for a building permit with the city in order to construct a two-car garage on her property, which is in an R1 district,” said Robert Gibbs of Morris, James, Wilson, Halbrook & Bayard LLP, who was representing Ms. McFassel. “To have a garage with a reasonable roof line with adequate pitch for storage, it was necessary to build the garage higher than 15 feet.” According to Mr. Gibbs, the application was to approve Ms. McFassel’s garage to be 21 feet high, only six feet higher than the ordinance allowed.

Dave Covington of Covington Contractors, who is also a neighbor of Ms. McFassel’s, informed the board that to build a garage with a pitch that would meet the height standard required by code, limited access to storage would be available. Mr. Covington demonstrated that with a garage that was 21 feet high, Ms. McFassel could stand in the center of the garage to place items in storage, but would almost have to crawl on her hands and knees to store things with a 15-foot high garage.

“The second floor of the garage would only be designed for storage, not living space,” explained Mr. Covington. “There will only be pull-down stairs. In addition, the height of the roof would allow the garage to be built so that it kept the historic style of the neighborhood and would match those of Ms. McFassel’s neighbors.” Mr. Gibbs presented letters from several neighbors stating that they had no objections to Ms. McFassel’s request. In addition to adding the garage, Ms. McFassel planned to tear down a shed at the back of her property.

There was no one from the public present at the hearing, either in support or opposition to the request. Commission member Keith Gramling felt that the ordinance requiring accessory buildings to be no more than 15-feet high was improper, and asked City Solicitor James Sharp if the board could recommend to City Council that the code be adjusted.

“I have gone through the area, and there are a lot of garages that exceed that pitch, and I think the pitch in the ordinance is wrong,” Mr. Gramling said. “I don’t feel the Board of Adjustments should have to hear these cases, and I would like to recommend that council correct the ordinance.” Mr. Sharp explained that, although the Board of Adjustments could vote to approve the request before them, it could not change the code. He pointed out that there was a city councilman, Skip Pikus, sitting in the hearing, and that was to whom a code change must be addressed.

Board of Adjustments Chairman, Keith Bason, felt that there wasn’t a problem with the code, and that addressing the issue on a case-by-case basis was the proper way to handle the matter.

“We have heard many applications like this,” Mr. Bason said. “Some have been approved and some have been denied, so I say we vote on this application based on what the code says today.”

The application was approved unanimously. Mr. Pikus, after the meeting was adjourned, agreed that the code may need to be adjusted.

“It is too low,” Mr. Pikus said, pointing out several garages that surrounded City Hall that were over 15 feet in height. “A garage with a pitch that low would not look right, and I do think we need to look at that code to see if it needs to be adjusted.”

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