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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Variance process questioned

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What is normally a routine matter of approving Cherokee Board of Adjustment decisions was questioned at the Tuesday meeting of the Cherokee City Council.

Council member Mick Mallory pointed out that the variance request from Kevin Halder at 401 North Roosevelt involved three variances from city ordinance requirements for accessory buildings on residential properties.

The planned construction involves moving a barn and building a new garage. The variance requests are for a setback of two feet rather than the five feet for a side yard, a setback of three feet rather than 10 feet for a rear yard and a total of 1,936 square feet of accessory building space rather than a maximum of 800 square feet for such buildings on one lot.

Under the plan, there would be a 40-foot high building within two feet of a neighbor's property. The height is not in itself something that requires a variance on this particular property but Mallory indicated that the tallness compounds the potential problems caused by the buildings being so close to the property line.

Mallory referred to potential problems including water runoff, snow and ice and reduced visibility created by the buildings.

Mike and Lori Zeimen, neighboring property owners were in the audience at the Tuesday council meeting.

They had not appeared at the board of adjustment to protest the variance request because they wanted to maintain good relations with their neighbor.

"Why does the city have ordinances?" Mike Zeimen asked. He expressed the opinion that the city should enforce the ordinance without requiring neighbors to get into the middle of the situation.

Kent Wenck, building inspector, told the council that his job was to enforce the ordinances. If a project described on a building permit application does not meet the requirements, the person planning the building project is told that a variance from the board of adjustment would be required before the project can go forward.

Neighbors who would be affected by the project are notified of a hearing and can appear to make comments or send in written comments. Wenck said that he knows of no situation in which a variance was denied unless a protest was made by a neighboring property owner.

"The system works but you have to speak out," Wenck said. He added that he has empathy for the Zeimens' situation and knows that sometimes people do not make objections to the board of adjustment for the same reason that the Zeimens expressed.

"The only authority that the city council has is to send a variance request back to the board of adjustment for another hearing," Wenck said.

Wenck said the Zeimens would have another opportunity to object if the council did not approve the board of adjustment decision, but the board of adjustment had final say on the matter.

"I won't go to a board of adjustment hearing. I don't want to be the scapegoat for this," Zeimen said.

The council voted to reject the board of adjustment decision and directed Wenck to inform the board that a neighbor had concerns with the variance request.

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