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Board rejects appeal for setback variance

October 25, 2012


The Starkville Board of Adjustments and Appeals rejected a variance for a Plantation Homes resident to build a carport closer to the property line than city law normally allows amid significant public presence at its meeting Wednesday.

Applicant Mary Grace Moore of 201 Cherry Lane, architect Briar Jones and 11 other citizens packed the city’s building department, with several speaking for and against the variance. Board member Jeff Markham was absent, and the remaining board members voted 4-2 against a motion to grant the variance, with Lee Carson and Bill Webb voting in favor and all other present commissioners, including chair Milo Burnham, voting against.

“The applicant has the option of filing an appeal with the mayor and the board of aldermen,” Burnham said. “(Moore has) 10 days to do so. I feel somewhat bound by the city ordinance ... (but) it would be very difficult to put (the carport) in another location. That’s something we have to take into consideration — putting undue hardship on the applicant.”

City law typically requires a 20-foot side yard setback between any construction and the property line. According to Assistant City Planner Pamela Daniel’s report, the distance of 1 foot from the property line was calculated based on the distance from the foundation to the property line. In a presentation to the commission, Jones said the carport’s apparent encroachment will be less than that.

“We actually requested a bit more (encroachment) than we need,” Jones said. “The actual walls or posts of the carport will be 6 feet from the property line.”

Burnham then asked about the carport’s roof, which would be 3 feet and 8 inches from the property line. He said he was concerned about there being enough space for the roof to be maintained, and while Jones said it would be possible, Carson said it would be difficult.

The Plantation Homes Homeowners Association sent the city a letter opposing the variance, and the association’s secretary-treasurer, Bonnie Coblentz, was the first to speak in the meeting.

“We’re very proud of our neighborhood and the space and privacy our homes afford us,” Coblentz said. “It’s not a small variation; it’s a large one. We’re very concerned about the precedent it would set for neighbors.”

Moore said there are already several similar variances in the neighborhood, so her carport not set such a precedent. Also, Moore said every homeowner within 160 feet of her home signed a letter agreeing with the variance request except for Marie Tramel, who sent the city a letter of her own opposing it. Moore said she sees the carport as an opportunity for both her and Tramel.

“Although it may appear adversarial, I don’t see this situation as a win-lose,” Moore said. “Ms. Tramel has a beautiful yard. I would hope to use that as a precedent to do the landscaping that goes along with the new carport and driveway. I believe this carport ... will not only enhance my property but that of my neighbor.”

After extensive commentary from both the commission and the public, Burnham asked for a motion to approve or deny the variance, and initially, no such motion came.

“We find ourselves in a deadlock,” Burnham said.
Carson then made a motion to accept the variance, which died for lack of a second. Burnham then asked if anyone wanted to motion to table the variance, but instead, Carson made another motion to accept the variance, and this time Webb seconded it, only for it to be voted down.

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