According to Patrice Dickerson, manager of planning and zoning, cases regarding carports, such as the one heard and approved Thursday night, do not require applicants to submit a rendering. The applicant did submit a rendering, but staff did not present it to board members.
“Historically, we’re getting far more material supporting these than we seem to be getting now,” said chair Ruth Coan. “It seems to be a much more streamlined effort.”
Members of the board were advised by the city’s legal team to not look at the location of cases before hearing the appeals, according to board member Alvin Johnson.
Coan suggested seeing a rendering of the proposed structure could influence the board’s decision to approve or deny the variance.
“I feel the obligation to protect people who may not be able to protect themselves,” she said. “We don’t know what may be happening in that neighborhood or who may be afraid to speak up. I’m always looking for as much documentation as I can get to make sure the committee is doing right by [residents].”
Board member Ken Moller echoed Coan’s opinion.
“It’s one thing to sign a letter, but if a neighbor’s uncomfortable, I think it’s really tough for them to come up here when the neighbor is sitting right there,” he said. “I’m not saying we should be their mouthpiece…”
Coan asked the staff to put themselves in the position of the neighbors, how a variance may affect home values and so forth.
Dickerson reminded Coan all the staff is allowed to legally consider is the variance to the zoning ordinance.
Planner Colleen Allen also informed the board the staff works hard to make sure that neighbors who may be scared to voice an opinion at the meetings are heard.
“We’ve had several cases in the last couple of months where people have been scared to come in,” she said. “We’ve gone above and beyond to cut out addresses and names. As long as we get it before the meeting, it’s presented as opposition. We try to support and make an avenue for people who can’t come to the meeting and say what they want to say.”
The Board of Appeals’ next meeting is March 14 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.