Appeal sends owners back to Planning Commission

It’s back to the Planning Commission for David Vonada of Tolovana Architects and Michael and MaryAnn Orth.

The City Council remanded a decision to deny the reduction of side yard setbacks back to the Planning Commission on the basis of new evidence at the April 2 public hearing.

The Orths are remodeling their home at 235 West Siuslaw St. in Tolovana Park and requested a reduction to the side and rear yard setbacks from five to three feet and from 15 to nine feet respectively, so that they can remodel their home and replace their deck.

The Planning Commission granted a request in November of 2018 for the reduction of a parking space from two to one but denied the request to reduce the side yard setback on the basis of not enough convincing evidence.

The home in question was built in 1938 on a substandard 25-foot-by-100-foot-lot, with an oceanfront feet set back of 28 feet, before the city incorporated.

The home currently encroaches into the setback on two corners by almost three feet and that this project will allow for a realignment of the home to the property line, increasing the setback on those corners.

Vonada said that since that lot was nonstandard it qualified as a hardship and the two foot reduction of side yards should be granted.

Typically lot sizes would be at least 50 feet wide, but many of the beachfront lots platted in the early 20th century are half that. The proposed home is a narrow 19 feet with the additional two feet providing much needed floor space.

Quite a bit of leg work was done to address some of Fitzpatrick’s concerns since the November Planning Commission decision and a new design could potentially solve several of the neighboring issues, including a proposal to narrow the house to 17 feet.

Council President Mike Benefield didn’t want to hear the new evidence saying that appeals and new evidence were just an applicants attempt at getting the proposal in front of a different governing body and potentially gaining a more favorable outcome.

“I’m getting tired of new evidence always being presented on appeal. They’ve had ample opportunity to review this with the Planning Commission that’s their role and the Planning Commission hears all the evidence that’s available, and suddenly we have all these appeals coming through.

Typically it doesn’t turn out to be new information but another chance to appeal to another body with the hopes that there will be a change in opinion,” Benefield said.

Mayor Sam Steidel agreed and said that new evidence can be “very confusing.”

The council agreed to limit the hearing to the record and only consider information available to the commission at the time of the original application.

“This is an emotional issue for us, they’re good friends of ours,” said the only opponent at the hearing, Sandy Fitzpatrick, the neighbor to the north.

The additional two foot encroachment would eliminate a part of the Fitzpatrick’s ocean view and potentially reduce their property value. And since the Fitzpatrick’s are currently selling their home, every additional foot matters of ocean view matters.

“With that one extra foot we will lose the view, which isn't fair to whoever buys our house. We paid a lot for it, I can't stop them from going out and blocking the ocean view,” Fitzpatrick said.

The council voted in favor of remanding the decision back to the planning commission based on new evidence, with Benefield voting no.

The Orths aren’t in a “huge hurry,” Vonada said, and would be receptive to sending bringing new plans back to the planning commission.


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