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Public Works Variance request of Jim and Melissa Bishop re Powell/Verona Street

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PW-009
Planning #:VAR2013-00006
Incident #:
Filing Date:02/15/2013
City Contact:Brent Baldwin
Hearing Date: 03/18/2013
Description: Public Works Variance request of Jim and Melissa Bishop re Powell/Verona Street
Decision Date: 04/01/2013
Decision Summary:Partial Approval with Conditions

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 18th day of March 2013 on the application of Jim and Melissa Bishop for variances from street and sewer construction requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code to construct a residence on property bordered by Powell and Verona Streets in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Brent Baldwin, Bellingham Public Works Department; and Jim Bishop, Applicant.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: Variance Request; Public Works Memorandum dated 3/11/13; Letter from Gregg Brethauer dated 3/16/13; and Letter from Tom Rosenberg, City Engineer, dated 8/10/82

1. Jim and Melissa Bishop applied for variances from Bellingham Municipal Code requirements to construct public street and sewer improvements to obtain a building permit for a single-family residence on property located at Powell and Verona Streets in Bellingham.
2. The subject property is a triangular shaped parcel located in Baumeister's Replat, bounded by Powell Street on the southeast and Verona Street on the west. It is identified as tax parcel 380332 440492 0000.
3. Neither Powell Street nor Verona Street are improved abutting the subject property. Powell Street has been cleared. Verona Street is forested. A water main is located in Powell Street abutting the parcel. A sewer main is located in Powell Street, terminating at the northeastern corner of the Applicants' property. Powell Street is improved from Old Lakeway Drive to the southerly property line of the property at 1213 Powell Street, just north of the Applicants' property.
4. BMC 13.08.030 requires that property abut a standard street prior to issuance of a building permit for improvements on the property. A variance from this requirement may be granted upon a showing that the criteria specified in BMC 13.08.50 have been satisfied.
5. BMC 15.12.070 requires the extension of a sewer main to serve residential construction.
6. Powell Street is located on a slope with a grade of approximately 14.7%. City street standards allow residential streets to be constructed on grades up to 15%.
7. A wetland reconnaissance was performed on the property by wetland specialist Katrina Jackson. The report concludes that no City regulated wetlands are located on or near the site. City databases show an undelineated wetland area south of the site near the intersection of Powell and Verona Streets.
8. Properties on the west side of Verona Street across from the Applicants' property are developed with single-family residences. These properties obtain access from the alley between Verona and Undine Streets. Verona Street was not constructed at the time these properties developed. According to the Applicants the street was not constructed because sandstone was encountered in the right-of-way at the time of development.
9. If Verona Street had been constructed at the time the properties to the west were developed the Applicants' property would front on an improved street and they would not be required to construct Powell Street.
10. Other undeveloped lots are located south and southeast of the Applicants' property across Powell Street. These lots, when developed, will obtain access from Powell Street.
11. The Applicants' property frontage is approximately 240 feet abutting Powell Street. They request a variance relieving them from the requirement to improve the southwesterly 80 feet of the abutting right-of-way. They also request a variance regarding the southwesterly 80 feet of sewer main to the extent it would be constructed within or under street improvements.
12. The Applicants state that they wish to maintain green space within the right-of-way and that the street improvement they propose would serve nearly all of the property across Powell Street.
13. City staff recommends denial of the variances. They indicate that neither grade nor environmental considerations would prevent construction of the street or sewer main. They also indicate that construction of the street and sewer main is necessary to serve the other properties fronting on Powell Street.
14. The owner of the properties across Powell Street commented that he is opposed to the variances in that they would not benefit future development or the general public and that paved roads and sewers are clearly more sanitary and less expensive to maintain.
15. BMC 13.08.050 provides for variances from street construction requirements when in the best interests of the public welfare and when practical difficulties arise in the design and construction of streets due to topographic geological limitations or other problems inherent or peculiar to the area, or when the imposition of the required street width would be detrimental to the interest of the neighborhood.
1. The subject property is unique due to its shape, frontage on two streets, topography, geology, development patterns and the presence of an undelineated wetland in the area. These features provide a basis for consideration of some relief from the requirement to fully extend Powell Street to the southwesterly property corner. However, any relief from the construction requirement must take into account the consequences to the public interest and to the needs of future development.
2. The sewer main can be constructed as required.
3. A variance from the full street construction requirements 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.
A variance from the requirement to fully construct Powell Street abutting the subject property described above in order to obtain a building permit for a single-family residence is granted subject to the following conditions:
1. Powell Street shall be constructed at least to a point 80 feet northeasterly of the southwesterly property corner in accordance with a plan and specifications approved by the Public Works Department. The requirement to construct up to the remaining 80 feet of street abutting the property may be waived provided:
      a) The location and design of the street improvements are approved by the Public Works and Fire Departments and satisfy Public Works and Fire Code standards. A turn-around may be required at the end of the improved street.
      b) An agreement is reached with the owner(s) of other properties that require construction of Powell Street as a prerequisite to development, and filed for record, regarding responsibility for any required future construction of the street; or a financial participation agreement, in a form approved by the Public Works Director, for a term not less than 15 years, is executed by the Applicants that binds the Applicants and their successors in interest to complete or pay for their equitable share of the construction of the street abutting the property at such time as it is required for future development. A bond or other instrument may be required by the Public Works Director to secure this commitment.
      c) If a variance is granted allowing development of the other properties abutting Powell Street without full construction of the street or the other properties are configured so that no further street construction would be required the agreements specified in 1.a) above shall not be required.
2. No variance is granted from the requirement to extend a sewer main.
3. No structures or impervious surfacing shall be placed on the unimproved portion of the Powell Street right-of-way by the Applicants or their successors in interest.
4. Stormwater management requirements shall be determined as though no variance was granted.
5. This variance is granted for the construction of one single-family residence and structures and uses accessory thereto.
ENTERED this 1st day of April 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold