No change to variance rules

Thu, 12/06/2007 - 4:10pm
By: John Munford

The Peachtree City Council isn’t about to give up its power to rule on variance matters.

But at a workshop Monday night, several council members said they want the city’s planning commission to review variance requests before they are brought before council.

The discussion was sparked by a concept presented by City Planner David Rast that would have allowed “minor” variances to be considered by the city’s planning commission.

Currently most variance requests are considered by the city council. The exception is for those meeting specific criteria which are reviewed by Rast, City Manager Bernie McMullen and a member of the City Council under a process called an administrative variance.

The administrative process is reserved in particular for problems with existing homes that were not created by the current homeowner, Rast said. A number of older homes have been built out of compliance with setback regulations through no fault of the current homeowner, Rast said.

Without 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 proposal would have created 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.

Several council members indicated they were uncomfortable in “abdicating” that responsibility.

The impetus for the proposed variance changes was a discussion at the last council retreat in which staff was directed to bring suggested variance changes for council to consider. Staff consulted other variance rules for other cites in the metro Atlanta area and in the southeast while researching the topic, Rast said.

Incoming councilman Don Haddix said he didn’t think the “minor variances” being reviewed by the planning commission would go over well with residents. Councilman Steve Boone said he’s had citizens complain to him about council delving too much into the details on some items instead of “looking at bigger things 15-20 years down the road.”

“I have a hard time vacating the authority,” said Councilman Stuart Kourajian.

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