If it were not for the crazy single family residential front set back ordinance, the Board of Adjustment (BOA) might have to disband for lack of work.

The BOA for the past couple of years has regularly granted variances for home owners who found themselves in violation of the single family residential front setback ordinance through no fault of their own.

In most cases homeowners have found their home was out of compliance with the new setback requirements only because they had applied for a building permit to do work on the front of their homes.  It’s almost impossible to know whether your house is in compliance without hiring a surveyor.  Because it is the average set back of the two homes on either side.

Monday night the board came within one vote of granting a variance for a home to be built by Catharine and Macauley Aron on a vacant lot at 615 Woodland Drive in Irving Park.

The motion to grant a 4.92  foot encroachment into a required 60.2 foot front setback passed on a 5-2 vote, but for a variance to be granted at least a 6-1 vote is required.  So although a majority of the board was in favor of the variance, the variance was denied.

One of the major differences between this request and many that have been approved, is that this one had opposition.  But the long discussion also pointed out the absurdity of the front setback ordinance and of the ordinance recently passed to try and fix it.

David Barger who did most of the speaking for the opposition argued that because of the way the city measured the setback, it was actually not a 5 foot encroachment but a 10 foot encroachment which is another indication of how confusing the ordinance is.

As BOA member Mary Skenes pointed out the proposed house would have been almost exactly the same distance from the street as the house next door.  But the ordinance sets the front setback for residential single family homes as the average of the two houses on either side of the subject house. So while the house next door was 55 feet from the front property line the two houses to the east were set back 62 and 63 feet, raising the average to 60.2 feet which resulted in a request for a variance.

What makes it even more interesting is if the Arons go forward and build a house with the required 60.2 foot setback, it will likely make the house next door nonconforming.  But nobody will know for sure unless they measure.

Marc Isaacson of Isaacson Sheridan representing the Arons, noted that the need for the variance was caused by a sewer easement across the back of the property that was not on the plat. According to Isaacson when the sewer easement was discovered the house and three car garage had to be moved forward on the lot creating the need for a variance.  He noted that the city in the past had allowed houses up and down the street to build garages on the easement, but the city was currently protecting its easement.