Afton Planning Commission split on variance voteA variance request for a property at 14350 Afton Blvd. South caused the eight-person Afton Planning Commission – with Commissioner Michelle Dunkirk absent – to split on whether or not to approve the application.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
What started out as a routine variance request during the May 7 Afton Planning Commission meeting turned into a tale of two sides.
A variance request for a property at 14350 Afton Blvd. South caused the eight-person panel – with Commissioner Michelle Dunkirk absent – to split on whether or not to approve the application.
“It’s a hung jury,” Planning Commission Chairwoman Barb Ronningen said.
Afton resident Fred Longworth submitted the variance application because he wishes to replace an existing non-conforming accessory structure.
The structure, a detached garage, sits 68.5 feet from the centerline of Afton Boulevard South; the required setback is 150 feet.
Longworth is also proposing to increase the setback of the new structure by two feet while enlarging the footprint of the structure from 24 feet to 42 feet to create a woodshop.
Longworth’s application indicated he has a practical difficulty locating the structure to make it conforming: a swimming pool and substantial landscaping are located directing behind the existing building.
“There’s really no better place on the property for the garage,” Longworth said. “It’s already located in the only obvious spot.”
Additionally the topography of the property drops off to the north and the northeast of the structure.
Commissioner Kris Kopitzke said he saw no reason why a variance couldn’t be granted give the property’s characteristics and that one requirement for variances is that it does not alter the character of the neighborhood given that several other properties have non-conforming structures.
“It’s keeping with the neighborhood,” he said. “I don’t have any idea what the public purpose is for having that kind of a setback anyway.”
Even though the structure would not alter the character of the neighborhood, the bigger issue related to Afton’s ordinances, which allow for an applicant to replace an existing non-conforming structure within the existing footprint and within the same height without a variance.
“I’m not convinced that a variance is required,” Ronningen said. “He would still have practical use of the property.
“The question becomes, ‘Do we want to grant a variance to have a larger garage?’”
Since Planning Commission was split on the vote, the application goes to Afton City Council’s May 15 meeting, without a recommendation from commissioners.