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Setback Variance request of Sehome Joint Ventures re 255 N. Forest Street

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PL-043
Planning #:VAR2013-00028
Incident #:
Filing Date:12/02/2013
City Contact:Jackie Lynch
Hearing Date: 01/08/2014
Description: Setback Variance request of Sehome Joint Ventures re 255 N. Forest Street
Decision Date: 01/15/2014
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 8th day of January 2014 on the application of Ken Gaston, on behalf of Sehome Joint Venture, for a variance from front yard setback requirements for property located at 255 N. Forest Street in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Jackie Lynch, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; and Ken Gaston, 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. Ken Gaston, on behalf of Sehome Joint Venture, applied for a variance from front yard setback requirements for property located at 255 N. Forest Street.
2. The portion of the subject property for which the variance is requested is located in Area 3 of the South Hill Neighborhood. It is designated Residential Multi, Duplex, 5,000 square feet per unit for single-family development, 2,500 square feet per unit for duplex development. The southeast portion of the property is in Area 4A of the South Hill Neighborhood and is designated Residential Single, 7,200 square feet per unit.
3. The property contains approximately 2.7 acres. It contains an existing multi-family residential development with 62 units in a 3 -- 5 story apartment building. Another structure containing 60 units in a three-to-five story apartment building is also located on the property. The buildings were constructed before zoning and setbacks were adopted by the City.
4. Single-family residences, multi-family dwellings and condominiums are located in the immediate vicinity of the property. A restaurant is located approximately 400 feet north.
5. The buildings were originally constructed as part of the St. Joseph's hospital campus. They may qualify for historic listing.
6. The Applicant proposes to construct a self-supporting canopy/porch at the entrance to the 255 N. Forest Street building to provide weather protection. The canopy would be immediately adjacent to an existing shallow canopy.
7. The existing building is located approximately 8.5 feet from Beech Street and is non-conforming with respect to the setback from Beech Street and side yards. The proposed canopy would extend 10 feet into the setback, which is 10 feet from the property line, and approximately eight inches into the Beech Street right-of-way.
8. Beech Street is a 60-foot wide right-of-way adjacent to the property, but narrows to approximately 12 feet north of the site and becomes an alley.
9. Covered porches are allowed to extend up to six feet into a front or side yard setback. The Applicant indicates that a six-foot deep porch would not accommodate the needs of the apartment residents for weather protection at the entrance of the busy building. The canopy would also provide cover for a bench the Applicant proposes to place at the entry.
10. The proposal is within 50 feet of a slope greater than 40 percent and may be subject to a critical areas permit.
11. Variance criteria are set forth in BMC 20.18.020.
12. The proposal is consistent with other properties in the area which have porches or canopies. Without a variance the subject property, which was located on the site prior to zoning regulations, would be deprived of the rights and privileges enjoyed by other properties in the area to have a weather protected entry.
13. Granting the variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare nor injurious to property or improvements in the area. The proposal will improve the appearance of the structure and provide weather protection. It will have minimal impact on other properties and the public right-of-way. The encroachment into the setback/right-of-way is located at the point where the street narrows and will not be near traffic on the street. The portion of the right-of-way abutting the entrance is currently used for parking and driveway.
14. A covered porch/canopy to provide weather protection for the structure and residents is a reasonable use of the property that would not be possible without a variance.
15. The Public Works Department has indicated that it would approve a revocable encroachment permit to allow the canopy to extend several inches into the right-of-way.
16. No public comments were received for this proposal.
17. City staff has recommended approval subject to the conditions set forth in the staff report. The Fire Marshal indicates that the Applicant will need to install a "No Parking Fire Lane" sign near the new work as the driveway edge is the nearest edge of a fire lane.
1. The proposal satisfies the criteria for a variance from front yard setback requirements.
2. A variance should be granted for the proposal, subject to the conditions set forth below.
A variance is granted for the property located at 255 N. Forest Street to allow construction of the proposed canopy/porch subject to the following conditions:
1. The canopy/porch shall be designed and located generally as proposed in the materials submitted in support of the proposal and as shown in Exhibit A.
2. This variance only allows the canopy to extend to the edge of the right-of-way. A revocable encroachment permit is required to allow extension of the canopy into the right-of-way.
3. A Critical Areas Permit, if required, shall be obtained for the proposal.
4. A Design Review Permit shall be obtained.
5. The proposal shall comply with requirements imposed by the Fire and Public Works Department, including, but not limited to, permits and Fire Lane signage.

ENTERED this 15th day of January 2014.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold