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Subdivision Variance request of Rick Berglund re 1223 and 1241 Verona Street (aka Berglund Short Plat #2417)

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PL-013
Planning #:SUB2012-00028 / VAR2013-00005
Incident #:
Filing Date:03/22/2013
City Contact:Kathy Bell
Hearing Date: 05/08/2013
Description: Subdivision Variance request of Rick Berglund re 1223 and 1241 Verona Street (aka Berglund Short Plat #2417)
Decision Date: 05/22/2013
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions.

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 8th day of May 2013 on the application of Garrett O'Brien for a variance from provisions of the Bellingham Municipal Code requiring construction of a street fronting property located at 1223 -- 1241 Verona Street in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Kathy Bell, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; and Garrett O'Brien, Applicant's Representative.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: See Exhibit List.

1. Garrett O'Brien, on behalf of Rick Berglund, applied for a variance from requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code to permit the subdivision of property located at 1223 -- 1241 Verona Street into three lots without improving Verona Street abutting the property.
2. The subject property is located on Verona Street south of Lakeway Drive and west of Powell Street in Area 13 of the Puget Neighborhood. This area is designated Residential Single, Detached, 10,000 square feet minimum lot size. Special conditions include clearing, view, and water distribution system design.
3. The property currently consists of two lots, each developed with a single-family residence. The entire parcel is approximately 250 feet wide by 126 feet deep with a total area of just under 31,500 square feet. The Applicant proposes to divide the property into three lots, two with approximately 9,072 square feet each, and one with approximately 13,330 square feet.
4. City staff issued preliminary approval for the three lot short plat on December 31, 2012. The preliminary approval was conditioned upon construction of Verona Street to minimum standard to the southerly boundary of the site. Lot averaging was utilized to reduce the size of the two smaller lots to approximately 90% of the required minimum lot size.
5. Verona Street is not improved abutting the subject property. The existing lots and other properties in the same block obtain vehicular access from the through alley between Verona Street and Undine Street.
6. Other properties within the same block abutting Verona Street are fully developed and the houses on the lots are oriented towards the alley.
7. The Verona Street right-of-way contains dense, mature vegetation. Construction of a minimum standard street within the right-of-way would require removal of this vegetation.
8. The Bellingham Municipal Code requires that all lots abut on a minimum standard street. Construction of an abutting right-of-way to minimum street standards is required in order to subdivide the property or to obtain a building permit to place structures on a lot.
9. BMC 18. 48 and 13.08.050 provide for variances from street construction requirements provided the criteria specified in those sections is satisfied.
10. The Applicant states that Verona Street was not constructed due to steep slopes and a sandstone formation within the right-of-way. He also indicates that the sight distance at the Verona/Lakeway Drive intersection is not adequate.
11. No records could be located relating to variances for the development of the existing residences within the block.
12. City Planning staff and the Public Works Department support the request for a variance. The Fire Department has expressed concerns regarding the request and has requested that the alley be improved with signage and an additional fire hydrant if Verona Street is not constructed.
13. No public comment was received regarding the proposal.
14. The geology of the right-of-way and the fact that the existing houses on the block were not required to construct Verona Street but were instead built with access and orientation to the alley are extraordinary conditions associated with this property. The literal enforcement of the requirement to construct Verona Street would involve difficulties and result in an undesirable plat.
15. Construction of Verona Street to the southern edge of the property is not needed for public circulation purposes or to serve other properties. Granting a variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity.
16. The subject property can be adequately served by the abutting alley. Improvements to the alley to comply with Fire Code or to address life safety issues may be required.
17. Avoiding construction within the Verona Street right-of-way will preserve mature vegetation and avoid impacts to other properties abutting the right-of-way.
1. Due to the unique geology within the Verona Street right-of-way, the character
of the development within the block, development of the block without construction of Verona St., and the improved alley abutting the site, the variance criteria of BMC 18.48 and 13.08.050 have been satisfied.
2. A variance from the requirement to construct Verona Street should be granted subject to the conditions set forth below.
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 from the provisions of the Bellingham Municipal Code requiring the construction of Verona Street abutting the property located at 1235 and 1241 Verona Street in order to subdivide and construct an additional residence on the property is granted subject to the following conditions:
1. Condition No. 2 of the Berglund Short Plat #2417 Preliminary Approval shall not be required. All other conditions of the Preliminary Short Plat Approval shall remain in effect unless modified in accordance with the Bellingham Municipal Code.
2. This variance is for the addition of one single-family lot and one single-family residence (including approved accessory uses and structures) for a maximum of three single-family residences on the entire short plat.
3. Emergency access, including but not limited to, any necessary right-of-way improvements and dedications, shall be provided to the site in accordance with BMC Title 17 and Fire and Public Works Department Standards and requirements.
4. A fire hydrant shall be installed pursuant to BMC Title 17 and in accordance with Fire and Public Works Department Standards and requirements.
5. The alley may be designated or referred to as Verona Street by the City at the direction of City authorities. The Applicant/Property Owner shall install street signage at the direction of, and in accordance with requirements and standards established by the Public Works Department.
6. The short plat and construction of the subject property shall comply with all other requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code, or variances obtained.

ENTERED this 22nd day of May 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold