Skip to page contents

Conditional Use Permit and Setback Variance requests of Avtar S. Bisla re 300 E. Sunset Drive

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PL-042
Planning #:CUP2013-00003 / VAR2013-00022
Incident #:
Filing Date:10/24/2013
City Contact:Brian Smart
Hearing Date: 11/06/2013
Description: Conditional Use Permit and Setback Variance requests of Avtar S. Bisla re 300 E. Sunset Drive
Decision Date: 11/20/2013
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 6th day of November, 2013 on the application of Avtar S. Bisla for a Conditional Use Permit and setback Variance to expand an existing non-conforming use and to enlarge the existing building located at 300 E. Sunset Drive in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Brian Smart, Planning and Community Development Department; Avtar Bisla, Applicant; Andrew Renaud, 304 E. Sunset Drive; and Matt Randall, Applicant's engineer.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: See Exhibit List.

1. Avtar Bisla applied for a Conditional Use Permit and Variance to add floor area to an existing non-conforming business located at 300 E. Sunset Drive and to expand the existing non-conforming building and relocate parking within the front yard setback.
2. The subject property is located at the southeast corner of E. Sunset Drive and Ellis Street. It is located in Area 1 of the Sunnyland Neighborhood and is designated Residential Single, Detached.
3. The property has been used for commercial purposes since 1933, prior to adoption of the Residential zoning. In 1947, a Certificate of Non-conforming use was issued to allow a change of use from a gas station/grocery store to a mini-mart/grocery store. The property has been used for the mini-mart since that time.
4. The Applicant proposes to use the property for a pharmacy/grocery store. The proposal includes a 400 square foot expansion of the building which would be partially within the front yard setback abutting Sunset Drive, and additional parking on the east side of the building.
5. The property is currently non-conforming to Bellingham Municipal Code requirements for open space, parking and setbacks. It currently has only 5% open space. 30% open space is required. The existing structure is located 20 feet from the front property line abutting Sunset Drive, two feet from the side yard flanking Ellis Street and the rear property line and 60 feet from the eastern property line. BMC 20.30 requires a front setback of 30 feet from the property line, 10 feet from the side flanking street and rear property line, and five feet from the eastern property line. Parking for the existing use is located within the front yard setback. BMC 20.30.060C(3) does not permit parking areas within the required front or side yard on a flanking street.
6. Sunset Drive is an arterial street abutting the property.
7. The existing use provides seven parking spaces. Five spaces are required for the existing use. The proposed use would require four parking spaces. The Applicant proposes to provide 11 parking spaces, including one accessible space.
8. The Applicant concurs with City Staff recommendations to replace some impervious surfaces with landscaping, to reduce the nonconformity with the open space requirement and to soften the street edges.
9. BMC 20.16.010C provides that non-conforming uses may be allowed to expand, enlarge, or increase in intensity subject to approval of a Conditional Use Permit and consistency with the standards set forth in BMC 20.14.020E and 20.16.010.
10. City Staff recommends approval of the Conditional Use Permit and Variance subject to the conditions set forth in the Staff Report.
11. Public comments were received for the proposal from neighbors. The comments generally supported the proposal, indicating that the proposal would improve the property. Concerns were expressed regarding changes in access and parking. The Applicant has addressed the concerns expressed by the neighbors in revisions to the proposal.
12. The proposal is consistent with the requirements of BMC 20.14.020E, subject to approval of a variance for the proposed addition to further encroach within the front yard setback.
13. The proposed use will promote the health, safety and general welfare of the community. It continues a retail use of the site which serves the surrounding neighborhood. The proposal will improve the site by upgrading the structures, removing some of the hard surfacing, and adding landscaping.
14. The proposed use will not be detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood. It represents an improvement for the neighborhood over the existing use and structure. Screening between the use and the adjacent neighbors will reduce the impacts of parking and traffic.
15. Variance criteria are set forth in BMC 20.18.020.
16. There are special circumstances applicable to the property, including the existing location of the structure which was constructed prior to zoning regulations, that cause the strict application of the regulations to deprive the property of rights and privileges enjoyed by other property in the area. The proposed addition fills in the northeast corner of the existing structure. The front wall would be in line with the existing front wall, but extends it approximately 15 feet to the east. This addition would extend 10 feet into the front yard setback, consistent with the existing structure. The proposed addition is the most feasible location for an addition to the existing small structure, due to its existing placement on the lot.
17. Granting the variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare nor injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity. Most of the single-family residences in the vicinity are also non-conforming to the required arterial setback requirements. The placement of the proposed addition will not impact views or vision clearance. The addition to the building and proposed improvements to the structure will improve the appearance of the property and provide greater compatibility with the residential neighborhood.
18. Granting the variance allows for reasonable use of the property. The existing structure is approximately 1,060 square feet, on a 6,870 square foot site. Adding 400 square feet to fill in a corner of the structure allows for a reasonable retail space to serve the surrounding neighborhood.
1. The proposal satisfies the Conditional Use criteria and the criteria of BMC 20.14.020E for the expansion of a non-conforming use.
2. The proposal satisfies the criteria for a variance from the front yard setback requirement in order to locate an addition to the existing building in line with the existing front wall of the structure.
3. A Conditional use permit and Variance should be granted for the proposal, subject to the conditions set forth below.
A Conditional Use Permit and Variance from front yard setback requirements
are granted for the expansion of a Non-conforming use/building addition for the
property located at 300 E. Sunset Drive, subject to the following conditions:
1. The Applicant shall install a solid fence at least six feet in height along the eastern property line, except that that portion of the fence within the required front yard setback shall be limited to three feet, six inches in height.
2. A landscape buffer/screen at least three feet in width shall be installed along the eastern property line to reduce the impact of the adjacent parking/maneuvering area on the property to the east.
3. Access shall be restricted to one, 22-foot wide curb cut off E. Sunset Drive, as shown on Exhibit E. The curb cut shall be designed to eliminate conflicts with the adjacent residential driveway. This curb cut shall be modified to conform to Public Works curb cut standards. All other curb cuts shall be closed and curb, gutter, and sidewalks repaired in accordance with necessary permits approved by the Public Works Department.
4. The Applicant shall replace all asphalt around the western and northern sides of the building with landscaping, as shown on Exhibit E.
5. The Applicant shall provide a minimum of a five-foot landscaping strip between the public sidewalk and the parking spaces along Sunset Drive, and along the southern property line abutting the parking area, as shown on Exhibit E.
6. Street trees shall be installed by the Applicant in accordance with a required Street Tree Permit.
7. The required landscaping shall be shown on a final landscape plan submitted for City review and approval along with the building permit application for the addition.
8. The building addition shall not extend further into the front yard setback than the existing front wall, extended approximately 15 feet to the east, as shown on Exhibit E.

ENTERED this 20th day of November 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold