Some meetings have themes, and the theme of the Greensboro Board of Adjustment meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, was “granny flats.”
Three of the requests for variances had to do with adding space to make room for an elderly parent.
If there was a secondary theme, it was the ridiculous front setback requirements in residential single-family zoning. The front setback is determined by how far back two houses on either side of the subject house are from the street. If you live in a house at least 10 years old, there is a good chance your house is nonconforming, meaning the city considers it too close to the street, which you aren’t likely to find out unless you apply for a building permit, in which case you area likely to end up before the Board of Adjustment.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that the City Council created the single-family residential variable front setback to make work for the Board of Adjustment. The ordinance could easily be amended by the City Council, and since the Board of Adjustment approves virtually all the variance requests for this particular zoning ordinance variance, it doesn’t appear the ordinance has any other purpose.
The Board of Adjustment, which met in the Plaza Level Conference Room instead of the Council Chamber, approved all seven requests for variances unanimously. There was no one present to speak against any of them.
Drew Wofford, the owner of Chemistry nightclub, was granted three variances to enable him to turn a house at 2907 Spring Garden St. next to the club into a neighborhood bar. The house at that address is zoned Conditional District-Commercial-Medium and is currently being used as a residence, which is a nonconforming use more commonly referred to as grandfathered. The bar will bring the property back into compliance, but there are a number of additional requirements placed on a bar.
A bar is required to be 200 feet from residential zoned property and, in this case, 2907 Spring Garden St. has apartments next door. So the request was for a variance of 200 feet. Another variance had to do with the parking lot, which is already being used by Chemistry, being too close to residentially zoned property. The third had to do with the front door and it didn’t appear anyone actually understood the issue.
Wofford said he had been working with the Lindley Park Neighborhood Association, which had decided not to take a position on his request. Also, the owners of the apartments next door, by not responding, had in effect not taken a position.
Chairman of the Board of Adjustment Chuck Truby said, “If I owned that apartment complex, I might have some concerns.” But he added, “Since there is no opposition, I’m going to support it.”
In another case, the Board of Adjustment also learned one of the quirks of the zoning ordinance is that an accessory building can only be 30 percent of the square footage of the principle building, but not really. Actually, an accessory building can only be 30 percent of the first floor of the principle building; the second or third floors don’t count.
Truby asked, “Why 30 percent?” And then board member Mary Skenes echoed the question. The answer apparently is that it’s 30 percent because the ordinance states it’s 30 percent. Kind of like when a parent says, “Because I said so.”