By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
A property owner in Williamsburg hoping for a variance on his Pelham Street property had those hopes dashed Monday night.
Just prior to a meeting with the city’s Board of Adjustments, a public hearing was held for property owners living adjacent to a parcel of land owned by resident Richard Foley — who is also a city council member.
The property in question is located in an R-1 designated zone. In that particular zone, ordinances are in place to allow for at least 7,500 square feet in residential property size, as well as 75 feet of frontage road.
Foley’s variance requested the Board of Adjustments approve a variance allowing for approximately a 6,000 square foot property, with 69 feet of frontage road.
Foley’s plan was to subdivide the property into two parcels and build “a small, rental house” that would be “consistent with the neighborhood.”
That’s when Board chairwoman Gail Bordes opened the public hearing. Board members in attendance included Bordes, Sibyl Stricklin, Anna Sue Davis and Chuck Dupier — the board has five members, according to Mayor Roddy Harrison, who also attended Monday’s meeting.
The only residents to appear for the hearing were residents Candy Shelton and her husband, Brad Shelton — who were against Foley’s plan.
Candy Shelton also was recently appointed to the Board of Adjustments — but both she and Foley appeared before the Board of Adjustments as residents of the city.
But the Sheltons weren’t the only neighbors against the decision — Candy Shelton, during her address of the board members, handed over a petition signed by approximately a dozen people against the move.
Candy Shelton first referenced a letter sent by city attorney Greta Price, which discussed setback requirements as set by city ordinance — but setbacks were never the issue. Herschel Roberts, zoning administrator, said Foley’s plan met the setback requirements.
She said she, along with other property owners who were unable to attend Monday’s public hearing, asked the board to deny Foley’s request.
And then she gave Foley the opportunity to withdraw his variance request — which he did not.
He asked how many houses were removed from the tax listings in 2013 — and it was learned approximately 50 were removed.
Only five were built in their place.
Candy Shelton then referenced the city’s own website that states decisions would be made to benefit the city.
“The zoning committee (has) zoning rules for a reason,” she said, citing overcrowding issues and congestion issues. “Zoning is good — it’s a good thing.”
She then said that Foley was a sitting member of the planning and zoning committee in 1990 when the committee voted to approve those properties be rezoned from an R-2 to an R-1.
Candy Shelton added that while Foley did abstain from that vote, an abstention automatically counts toward the majority vote.
Foley said that move was to eliminate the chance of building apartment buildings.
She also said “it was interesting to me” that 4 of the 7 properties affected by the vote in 1990 belonged to Foley.
She also referenced several Kentucky Revised Statutes, and told board members she contacted the state’s League of Cities looking for answers.
Candy Shelton further referenced court cases, including Jefferson County vs. Schmidt.
“KRS 100.243 is very strict,” she said. “It’s not to be taken lightly — this strict requirement has to be met.”
She then explained to board members in order to approve the variance, it must have met four different findings.
One, that the variance does not adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of the general public.
Two, the variance does not alter the general characteristics of the immediate area.
Three, the variance does not cause a hazard or nuisance to the public.
And four, that there is a legitimate reason for the circumvention of the zoning requirements.
“(There is) no geographical reason why (he plans) to build a house in the backyard,” she said. “In denying this variance you will not make a hardship for Mr. Foley.”
She then alleged that Foley committed “willful violations” of ordinances and that “Mr. Foley knew the rules.”
She then referenced a conversation she said she had with Foley in July 2013 where he indicated he was bringing builders to the property within two weeks.
“I’ve taken enough of this,” Foley said. “That’s not true.”
Candy Shelton then asked board members to deny Foley’s request.
Dupier asked about the adjacent lot. Foley explained he was planning to subdivide the property into a separate deed. He then confirmed for Dupier that the structure on the property currently faces Main Street.
The phone call between Candy Shelton and Foley came up in discussion again.
“I didn’t violate any laws,” Foley said, then told Candy Shelton, “I didn’t tell you I was building a house.”
Bordes intervened. “We can sit here all night,” she said. “Several things have been discussed.”
Price added then that she sent out a memo Monday referencing a call she had made to the Kentucky League of Cities. “If the lot were severed it would satisfy the density requirements,” she said, but both Sheltons were nodding their heads in disagreement with that statement.
The first lot, it was noted, already has a house on it. “(I) don’t need a variance on that lot — it’s already there,” Foley said.
The public hearing was closed, and the meeting of the Board of Adjustments opened.
Bordes then called for a vote — and was initially met with silence.
Then Davis finally motioned to not grant Foley’s variance request unless the Board of Zoning would make changes to the R-2 designation.
That motion died for lack of a second.
Bordes then asked if board members wanted to offer another motion.
That’s when Candy Shelton spoke again, asking whether there was “fear” in voting one way or another.
No answer was offered.
Dupier then expressed that the variance does not meet the requirements.
“If he had the 7,500 square foot we wouldn’t be here (at this public hearing),” said Brad Shelton.
Dupier then noted that two lots would then violate the zoning ordinance. “And that creates a problem,” he said.
Davis’ motion was called back to the floor — and then Davis suggested tabling the issue and have the zoning board review it.
But it was learned this was not an issue for zoning.
So on a third attempt, Davis reworded her motion to deny the variance “based on the (current) zoning ordinances.”
Dupier seconded that motion — a show of hands vote showed the board unanimous in this decision.