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Setback Variance request of Stuart and Christine Magnes re 244 N. Garden Terrace

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PL-019
Planning #:VAR2013-00007
Incident #:
Filing Date:04/11/2013
City Contact:Jackie Lynch
Hearing Date: 07/24/2013
Description: Setback Variance request of Stuart and Christine Magnes re 244 N. Garden Terrace
Decision Date: 08/07/2013
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions.

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 24th day of July 2013 on the application of Stuart and Christine Magnes for a variance from rear yard setback requirements for property located at 244 N. Garden Street in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Jackie Lynch, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; and Stuart Magnes, Applicant.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: See Exhibit List.

1. Stuart and Christine Magnes applied for a variance from rear yard setback requirements for their property located at 244 N. Garden Street in order to convert a carport into a garage.
2. The subject property is located in Area 4B of the South Hill Neighborhood. It is designated Residential Single, Detached, 7,200 square feet minimum detached lot size. Special conditions include view and clearing.
3. The property contains approximately 8,250 square feet of area. It is accessed from Garden Terrace, a 16-foot wide paved alley. It contains an existing house which is located approximately 20 -- 30 feet from the Garden Terrace right-of-way.
4. A portion of the pavement for the Garden Terrace alley is located on the subject property.
5. An attached carport was constructed on the property at least 25 years ago, probably at the same time the house was constructed. The carport is located approximately 8 -- 9 feet from the Garden Terrace right-of-way.
6. Prior to September 2008, the carport was enclosed by adding side walls and a garage door. The work was performed without a building permit. A Code Enforcement case was opened by City officials and the property owners were informed that a permit, critical areas review and a setback variance would be required to retain the enclosure.
7. The property is located on a steep slope, dropping approximately 65 feet within the 110-foot length of the site. The entire property is located within a geologically hazardous critical area or buffer.
8. A parking pad is located south of the carport. The Applicant indicates that the current property owners did not construct the pad and that it has existed for at least 25 years.
9. BMC 20.30.040F and 20.30.100B(1) require structures, including main residence structures and garages with doors facing the rear property line, to be set back at least 10 feet from the rear property line.
10. Other properties within the same block obtain vehicular access from Garden Terrace and have enclosed garages facing Garden Terrace.
11. The existing location of the carport/garage is the most feasible location for enclosed parking for the site. Access from the front street, N. Garden Street, is not feasible due to the steep slope. Construction in another portion of the lot would also involve work within a geologically hazardous area. The steep slopes, critical areas restrictions, and location of the existing residence are circumstances that cause application of the rear yard setback requirement to deprive the property of rights and privileges enjoyed by other properties in the same zoning designation.
12. Backing out of a garage less than 10 feet from Garden Terrace is hazardous due to the lack of visibility as the driver is performing the backing maneuver. The placement of mirrors on either side of the garage providing drivers with a clear view of traffic on Garden Terrace will minimize the hazards. With appropriate safety precautions granting the variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare nor injurious to the property or improvements in the area.
13. Construction of a garage that will deter theft and provide protection from the elements is a reasonable use of the property that is not feasible without a variance from the rear yard setback requirements.
1. Proposed variances for structures constructed without first obtaining the necessary permits/variances are reviewed for consistency with variance criteria as though the structure had not been constructed.
2. Subject to conditions the proposal satisfies the variance criteria.
3. The variance should be granted subject to the conditions set forth below.
4. Any Finding of Fact that should be denominated a Conclusion of Law shall be deemed to be a Conclusion of Law. Any Conclusion of Law that should be denominated a Finding of Fact shall be deemed to be a Finding of Fact.
The proposed variance to reduce the rear yard setback for the property located at
244 N. Garden Terrace is granted to allow the existing two car garage to remain subject to the conditions set forth below:
1. The garage shall be located no closer to the rear property line than is currently existing, approximately 8 -- 9 feet from the rear property line.
2. Mirrors shall be installed in locations and with specifications approved by the Public Works and Planning and Community Development Departments to allow visibility of and for vehicular and pedestrian traffic on Garden Terrace as vehicles are backing out of the garage. The mirrors shall be maintained at all times that the garage extends into the 10-foot rear yard setback.
3. The Applicants shall obtain all necessary permits and/or exemptions for garage construction performed without permits or exemptions and for all work necessary to complete the proposal.
4. Complete applications for necessary permits and exemptions shall be submitted, with payment therefor, within 14 days of this Order. All necessary work to obtain final approval shall be completed within 30 days of permit and/or exemption issuance.

ENTERED this 7th day of August 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold