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BZA Meeting Minutes - September 22, 2014

Chairman Fritz called the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to order at 6:00pm.

PRESENT AT ROLL CALL: Ms. Corcoran, Mr. Fritz, Mayor Renda, Mr. Stanard
ABSENT: Mr. Bolek, Mrs. Cooper

OTHERS PRESENT: Dave Strichko, Building Inspector, Aimee Lane, Assistant Law Director, Jeff Filarski, Village Engineer, Sherri Arrietta, Clerk of Council

Mr. Fritz pointed out one minor correction to last month’s meeting minutes on page 2, in the sixth paragraph, “their” should be “there.”

Mr. Stanard made a motion seconded by Ms. Corcoran to approve the minutes of the September 22, 2014 meeting, as amended.

AYES: Ms. Corcoran, Mr. Fritz, Mr. Stanard

Chairman Fritz declared the public hearing open at 6:01pm. At this time, Mrs. Lane administered the oath to those who wanted to speak at the hearing.

Tim Daunch
PP# 912-29-012 East View Lane
Area Variance – Side Yard Setback

Mr. Tim Daunch, property owner, was present at the meeting. He stated that he purchased the two lots off Giles Road, originally designated as East View Lane. There is a 60 foot easement that goes from the road back through the property on the flag lot; the resulting driveway would be 1200 feet. The property is heavily ravined in the back and on the south side. Mr. Daunch stated that because of the hillside setback requirements, the proposed new dwelling will have to be positioned toward the north side line. With the hillside setback requirements and side yard setback requirements, it only gives him 50-60 feet to work with, which makes it difficult to fit a house into. He stated that he is therefore requesting a 30 foot variance for the side yard setback.

At this time, Mr. Fritz asked if there was anyone in attendance wishing to speak for or against this request.

Mr. Ron Janke was present on behalf of his son and daughter-in-law (William & Melanie Janke) who live at 4193 Giles Road, which is the property where the easement will be located. He stated that they have had a discussion with Mr. Daunch regarding the location of the easement. Mr. Janke stated that the Village Engineer suggested changing the tilt of the house to reduce the variance. He stated that he does not think that is a good idea and that the optimal location for the house would be to have the garage as far north as possible, as it is shown on the drawing. Mr. Janke stated that that will keep the greatest distance from the ravine and reduce any possibilities of run-off and erosion. He stated that William and Melanie are very much in favor of the location of the plot plan. Mr. Janke stated that they are also in favor of maintaining the angle of the house and have no objection to the 30 foot variance, based on the assumption that any subsequent geotechnical work will allow a house to be built in the proposed location.

Mr. Tom Steckel, who lives at 4175 Giles Road, was present at the meeting. He stated that he prepared a list of items of concern which he is going to read to the board. Mr. Steckel stated that 35 foot setback requirement seems reasonable. He stated that he does not see how a house can be built without impacting his property with only a 5 foot side yard setback. The back portion of his land is nature conservancy and he is trying to protect that. Mr. Steckel stated that this proposed home will be going on a small and very odd shaped lot. There are deep ravines on three sides; on the east and south sides they are very steep. There are also visible layers of clay in the ravine. On the west side, there is another ravine that ends just before the property line; however the drainage continues another 100 feet onto his property. There is a ravine 50 feet from the property line and angles toward another ravine toward Giles Road, therefore the Daunch’s property is like an island. Because the slope comes down his property into the ravine, the drainage will increase the erosion quite significantly. Mr. Steckel stated that this variance request is for the area directly in his side yard, which he maintains and which the nature conservancy inspects every year. He asked if the property line was being determined by his fence line, which was put 2 to 5 feet into his property line, or the actual property line.

Mr. Fritz asked Mr. Steckel whether or not he would still be subjected to some of the drainage issues if the house was built within the 35 foot setback. Mr. Steckel stated that anything that is built on that property will increase the issues but he stated that he would still be opposed to the variance if there were no drainage issues.

Mr. Daunch informed Mr. Steckel that he will have the property surveyed in order to determine the actual property line. He also informed him that he never considered having the drainage pushed to the north on Mr. Steckel’s property and in fact as he mentioned, there are three ravines and therefore plenty of places for the water to go. Mr. Daunch stated that he has had two excavators there to look at the swale area at the head of the western ravine and has spoken with Mr. Filarski about putting a culvert in there. He stated that he certainly would not do anything to block or add to the water flow to Mr. Steckel’s property.

Chairman Fritz declared the public hearing closed at 6:20pm.

Mr. Fritz and Mr. Stanard has some concerns that the variance was excessive and pointed out that Mr. Daunch was aware of the requirements and the restraints of the topography when he purchased the land. Mr. Stanard pointed out that the house could be shaped differently and scaled down to fit within the requirements.

Mr. Daunch stated that he sought counsel with the Village Building Department before he purchased the property and was told that he could seek a variance. He stated that his impression, right or wrong, was that there may be room for discussion and if he did not believe that, he probably would not have purchased the property. Mr. Daunch stated that he is willing to compromise on the amount of the variance requested.

Mrs. Lane reminded the board members that all eleven standards for the variance request should be taken into consideration and that they should not just focus on one factor as being the basis of their decision.

A discussion ensued regarding changing the amount of the variance requested or rotating the house in order to reduce or eliminate the need for a variance. Mr. Daunch stated that he would reduce the variance request from 30 feet to 20 feet to give him a 15 foot side yard setback. He asked if the board would be willing to vote on that tonight. Mrs. Lane stated that they could.

Mrs. Lane asked that the attachment to the request for the variance be put into the record as the finding s of fact, based on statements regarding the challenges presented by the topography and potentially buildable area because of the hillside setback for the lot:
  • Do special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land or structure involved and which are not applicable generally to other lands or structures in the same zoning district? Deeply ravined topography and required hillside setbacks limit buildable width to 50′ and 100′ depth. Additionally, and because of that, we have a high level of interest in maintaining as much of the parcel(s) as possible in a natural undeveloped state, as well as minimizing any impact to the natural hillsides.
  • Will the property in question yield a reasonable return or can there be any beneficial use of the property without the variance? The variance being sought is to allow construction of a home that is in harmony and character with the site. It would be very difficult to yield an attractive and functional home and attached garage within 50′ width. Even with the variance, a front-facing garage is required due to lack of side entry/egress for cars.
  • Is the variance substantial and is it the minimum necessary to make possible the reasonable use of the land or structures? We do not believe the variance to be substantial in that it has no material effect on neighboring properties. We believe that it is the minimum necessary to accommodate an aesthetically pleasing structure, while conforming to hillside set-back requirements that preserve the safety, physical integrity, and natural beauty of the land.
  • Would the essential character of the neighborhood be substantially altered or would adjoining properties suffer substantial detriment as a result of the variance? No, because the building site boarders (rear and both sides) several acres of unbuildable, heavily wooded, secluded land, more than 1100 feet from Giles Road and will never be seen by the general public or the abutting homeowners. All abutting homes are at least 1200′ (almost a quarter mile) from the proposed building site and separated by heavy woods, hills, and ravines.
  • Would the variance adversely affect the delivery of governmental services, such as water, sewer, or trash pickup? Sewer will be septic (we have already had a site visit by Cuyahoga County Board of Health). Water service, per City of Cleveland Water Dept., will require a meter box at the street. Trash collection will be handled in the normal manner.
  • Did the property owner purchase the property with knowledge of the zoning restrictions? Y
  • Do special conditions or circumstances exist as a result of the actions of the owner?
  • Can the property owner’s predicament feasibly be obviated through some method other than a variance? No. While we have some latitude in our home design plans, and the orientation of the proposed plan, we continue to run into issues with the 50′ x 100′ available footprint, including but not limited to the removal of some very large maple and oak trees.
  • Would the spirit and intent behind the zoning requirement be observed and substantial justice done by granting a variance? The stated intent of the Moreland Hills hillside zoning ordinances is as follows:
    • To protect the public and private property owners from the potential damage to human life and safety and property damage that could potentially be caused by increased hillside instability.
    • To assure access to properties within the Protected Hillside Zone by emergency police and fire vehicles to protect persons and property.
    • To preserve and protect the unique scenic resources and scenic river habitats in the Protected Hillside Zone.
    • To preserve and protect the valuable hydrologic systems, fragile hillside and valuable flora and fauna in the Protected Hillside Zone.
    • To permit, subject to the best available technology, development on Protected Hillside Zone areas while conserving and promoting the public health, safety, convenience and general welfare by minimizing problems due to water runoff and soil erosion problems incurred in adjustment of the topography to meet developmental needs.
    • To use the best accepted design, landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering and hydrological engineering so preserve, enhance and promote the existing and future appearance and resources in Protected Hillside Zone areas.
    • To preserve and enhance the natural beauty of Protected Hillside zones by encouraging the maximum retention of natural topographical features such as natural drainage swales, streams, slope ridge lines, rock outcropping, vistas from and of hillside, trees and other natural plant formations and retain the sense of identity and image that the Protected Hillside Zone areas now impart to the Municipality.
    • To complement the other actions of this Council including the enactment of an erosion control ordinance, the enactment of a vegetation preservation ordinance and the designation, along with other communities, of the Chagrin River Corridor as a “Scenic Corridor” which should be protected and preserved.

      In particular, please see paragraphs (c), (d), (f), (g), and (h) above. We are most concerned with retaining the natural beauty of the site, and aesthetically integrating the home into the landscape. We also want to liberally adhere to the hillside setback requirements, which necessitate siting the home as close to the property line as possible.
  • Will the granting of the variance requested confer on the applicant any special privilege that is denied by this regulation to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district. None that I’m aware of.
  • Would a literal interpretation of the provision of this Code deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district under the terms of this Code? Perhaps. A number of properties occupy atypical building sites, e.g., unusual topography consisting of large changes of elevation, ravines, steep hillsides, etc. Variances have been granted in most cases.

Mayor Renda made a motion seconded by Mr. Stanard to accept the findings of fact.

AYES: Ms. Corcoran, Mr. Fritz, Mayor Renda, Mr. Stanard

Mayor Renda made a motion seconded by Mr. Stanard to approve a 15-foot side yard variance with the defined changes from the original request being: moving the house toward the south such that it will be placed 25 feet from the hillside as opposed to 35 feet which is still within the hillside setback zone; furthermore, 5 additional feet from the side yard property line will be gained by changing the design of the home. Final approval is subject to review and approval by the Village Engineer.

AYES: Ms. Corcoran, Mr. Fritz, Mayor Renda, Mr. Stanard

Mr. Stanard made a motion seconded by Ms. Corcoran to adjourn the meeting at 6:37pm.

AYES: Ms. Corcoran, Mr. Fritz, Mayor Renda, Mr. Stanard

Respectfully Submitted,
Sherri Arrietta, Clerk of Council

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