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Board grants triplex appeal with variance

September 26, 2012


The Starkville Board of Adjustments and Appeals approved a street setback variance for a triplex currently under development on Mallory Lane and re-elected its chair and vice-chair at its meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

Developer Kenny Wilson is currently constructing a triplex at 604, 606 and 608 Mallory Lane, and where city law typically requires triplexes to be set back 25 feet from the street, Wilson’s triplex is only set back 21.7 feet. At the meeting, Wilson said he was trying to line up the front of his triplex with the sides of buildings to the north and west, which face away from the building. The 3.3-foot encroachment, he said, was an accident.

“I measured back from the street curb 30 feet... (and) I recognized I was back from all the buildings that were out there,” Wilson said. “I don’t feel like (the variance) will hinder anything ... because the parking space is 18 feet. It was an honest mistake, guys. I wish we weren’t sitting here.”

The only citizen who commented during the public hearing was Katie Rovtar, who said she owns the property behind Wilson’s triplex.

“How does (the variance) affect our housing,” Rovtar asked, “and does it affect our property values at all?”

Board chair Milo Burnham said the variance only affects Wilson’s property, and Wilson said he anticipated no such effect on Rovtar’s property. The setback variance only applies to the triplex’s front, Wilson said, so it is no closer to Rovtar’s property than city law normally allows.

Before proceeding, Burnham asked if any fellow board members had visited the triplex and seen how far along the triplex’s construction was. The other members said they had seen the site, and Burnham said he personally wanted to grant the variance, but the board still faced a dilemma.

On the one hand, Burnham said, the board has a responsibility not to grant a variance that results from negligence, and Wilson had admitted his variance was a result of negligence. On the other hand, he said, the board has a responsibility not to impose a restriction that poses an unnecessary hardship.

“This is not something where you can pick it up and set it back three feet to correct the situation,” Burnham said. “It’s not something that can be corrected unless they demolish the structure. We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.”

Board member Lee Carson said he agreed with Burnham on granting the variance.

“I think what he did completely fits with the way the neighborhood is developed,” Carson said. “Without going out there and measuring it, there’s no way to really see that you’re encroaching two or three feet.”

Board members Bill Webb and Marco Nicovich briefly expressed concern about the rear of Wilson’s triplex encroaching on an adjacent utility easement. City planner Ben Griffith said this slight encroachment results from a request from the Starkville Electric Department to move the triplex south due to the presence of a high-voltage transformer nearby. The utility easement encroachment was only found after construction began, Griffith said, and city engineer Edward Kemp and city public works director Doug Devlin have found the encroachment too minor to pose a problem.

“It’s close, but I don’t think there’s going to be any impact,” Griffith said. “During the platting, the easements would be addressed and modified at that point.”

The board ultimately voted 6-0 to grant the variance, with board member Jeff Markham absent. The board also briefly reviewed plans for a report on its activities in 2011 and 2012 to the Starkville Board of Aldermen before re-electing Burnham as chair and Nicovich as vice-chair.

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