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Variance request of Dannon Traxlor and Matthew Sims re 2631 Utter Street

Hearing Examiner #: HE-14-PL-010
Planning #:VAR2014-00009
Incident #:
Filing Date:
City Contact:Brian Smart
Hearing Date: 04/09/2014
Description: Variance request of Dannon Traxlor and Matthew Sims re 2631 Utter Street
Decision Date: 04/14/2014
Decision Summary:Approved with Conditions

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 9th day of April 2014 on the application of Dannon Traxlor and Matthew Sims for a variance from flanking side-yard setback requirements for property located at 2631 Utter Street in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Steve Sundin, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; and Dannon Traxlor, 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. Dannon Traxlor and Matthew Sims applied for a variance from flanking side-yard setback requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code to construct an addition to their single-family residence located at 2631 Utter Street.
2. The subject property is located at the southwest corner of Utter and W. Connecticut Streets in Area 3 of the Columbia Neighborhood. The area is designated Residential Single, Detached, 5,000 square feet minimum detached lot size. Special conditions in this area include flood, shoreline, clearing and historic. Special regulations provide for reduced setbacks for older homes in the area to provide flexibility for maintenance and retention of the historic character of the neighborhood.
3. The property contains an existing single-family residence that was constructed in 1900, well before adoption of land use regulations in the city. The existing house encroaches within the current required setback on the flanking side-yard abutting W. Connecticut Street. The required setback is 40 feet from the centerline of the street. The house is located approximately 38 feet from the centerline of the street.
4. The Applicants propose to construct an addition to the house that will increase the length of wall that is located within the setback area, and adds a second-story that will also extend into the required setback. The proposed addition would not extend further into the setback area than the existing wall of the house.
5. The subject site is approximately 5,000 square feet in size, 50 feet wide by 100 feet long. The existing house contains approximately 892 square feet, with two small bedrooms and one small bathroom. The Applicants propose to add 1,100 -- 1,200 square feet of habitable space, including approximately 350 square feet of new footprint. This addition will allow two new bedrooms and two new bathrooms. The height of the structure will increase from about 16 feet to about 26 feet.
6. W. Connecticut Street is a residential street with a 60-foot wide right-of-way. The proposed setback for the addition would be eight feet from the property line flanking W. Connecticut Street. Approximately 17 feet of right-of-way is located between the edge of improvements and the property line, leaving sufficient room in the event additional improvements to W. Connecticut Street are desired. The area is fully developed so the addition of travel lanes to the street is unlikely.
7. City staff recommends approval of the variance subject to the conditions set forth in the Staff Report.
8. One public comment was received from a neighbor in support of the proposal.
9. Variance criteria are set forth in BMC 20.18.020.
10. There are circumstances applicable to the property that cause the strict enforcement of the setback regulations to deprive the property of rights and privileges enjoyed by other property in the area. The existing house was constructed long before setback regulations were adopted. The existing wall of the house is located about two feet within the flanking side yard. The most feasible way to add living space to this small house is to extend the existing walls to the rear of the lot, which is what the Applicants propose to do. Without a variance the property would not be able to fully improve the function and habitability of the 1900s era house.
11. Granting the variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare nor injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity. The Neighborhood Plan and Special regulations encourage flexibility in the application of setback regulations to existing older housing stock in the Columbia Neighborhood. Allowing additions with extensions of existing walls that encroach into setbacks is consistent with the direction provided by the plan and special regulations. This flexibility allows retention and improvement of the older houses in the neighborhood and preserves its historic character. No evidence of adverse impacts from the proposed variance was submitted.
12. Without the proposed variance reasonable expansion of the existing residence to provide for modern functionality and preservation of existing housing stock would not be feasible. Due to the small size of the existing house, 24.5-foot width, and its location on the lot any reasonable expansion of the residence to provide for modern scale and amenities would require extension of the exterior side walls toward the rear of the lot, as is proposed.
1. The proposal is consistent with the variance criteria and the direction set forth in
the Columbia Neighborhood Plan and Special Regulations for Area 3 of the Columbia
2. Subject to the conditions set forth below a variance should be granted from the flanking side-yard setback requirement to allow extension of the flanking side wall of the existing residence within the side-yard.
3. 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 is granted for the property at 2631 Utter Street to allow extension of the flanking side wall of the existing residence, and a second-story addition in line with the existing exterior wall, as proposed, subject to the following conditions:
1. The proposed addition shall be located no closer to the flanking side-yard property line than the existing house structure, approximately 38 feet from the centerline of W. Connecticut Street. It shall be generally consistent with the plans and materials submitted by the Applicants in support of the application, provided the proposal may be reduced in size or height. Design elements of the addition shall reflect the character of the existing housing styles and neighborhood character, as proposed.
2. New construction shall comply with all other applicable code requirements, or variances obtained.

ENTERED this 14th day of April 2014.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold