PTC may change variance procedures

Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:33pm
By: John Munford

Council giving input on proposal Monday night

The Peachtree City Council is being asked to provide input Monday about a staff suggestion to streamline the variance process for property owners in certain cases.

Currently the city has two levels of variances that can be sought. One is the administrative variance, which is typically used for older homes which are found to have been built out of compliance say with setback regulations through no fault of the current homeowner, said City Planner David Rast.

Without such variances, those homeowners would be unable to improve on their property even a simple interior upgrade such as a bathroom remodeling because homeowners can’t get a building permit for a nonconforming lot, Rast said.

The other variance level is decided by the City Council in a public hearing. The city has been notoriously stingy on variances in the past, even requiring one homeowner to take down a wall and playground that encroached into the rear city-owned buffer that abuts his backyard.

Rast said he does not envision the city allowing such mistakes made by homeowners to be granted variances even under the new process.

Monday’s council workshop meeting will convene at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

The proposal would allow create an intermediary “minor” level of variances that could be considered by the city’s planning commission as long as they meet any of the following specific criteria:

• A decrease of not more than 20 percent of the minimum building setback;

• Any deviation in the maximum height or location of a fence or wall;

• An increase of not more than 10 percent of the maximum lot coverage; or

• A decrease of not more than 25 percent in the minimum number of parking spaces.

Variance requests which don’t meet those criteria would still go before City Council for a ruling, Rast noted.

Under the proposal from city staff, the planning commission would review the minor variance requests and see if they will remain in character with the rest of the neighborhood, Rast said.

Under the process property owners would still have to meet the same variance criteria under the current city ordinance which includes proof that the variance is necessary to relieve “an unnecessary hardship for the owner while causing no detriment to the public.”

In accordance with current variance procedures, the burden of proof in cases under a new variance system would remain on the property owner also Rast noted.

City staff began reviewing its variance procedures after some discussion on possible improvements to the process at the most recent city council retreat, Rast said.

The suggested process, which can be tweaked or dismissed by council, is not being proposed to allow more variances to be approved by the city, Rast said. At the same time, each variance application is unique and not as subject to creating a legal precedent as a rezoning would, Rast noted.

The suggested changes from staff were devised after a review of other cities’ variance regulations, Rast noted.

Several council members have expressed interest in making sure the city doesn’t handcuff owners of older homes who may want to renovate them and improve the neighborhood. At the same time, however, council members also have said they want to be cautious not to encourage overdevelopment of homes in neighborhoods.

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bad_ptc's picture
Submitted by bad_ptc on Thu, 11/29/2007 - 6:44pm.

As was pointed out in the recent Kohl’s debacle, the proposed development was missing about 25% of the parking spaces that would “normally” have been required based on the total square footage of store area.

Of course that was based on the site plan that Mr. McMurrain provided for the Kohl’s. The site plan he can’t provide now because he doesn’t own the strong>CITY STREETS that he didn't own before but he needs now to draw another plan. That hurt.

As the article alludes to but does not specifically say is these changes would affect “homeowners”.

I’m not aware of many homeowners that have a need to request up to 25% less parking spaces, so maybe “Commercial Development” is the intended recipient of this magnanimous gesture?

I would suggest that any variances requested for property zoned “commercial” be open to public input at city council meetings.

If the city council hasn’t got the message yet, we don’t trust you to do what’s right for the citizens of PTC when the commercial developers want something for nothing.

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