2007-09-15 / Editorials & Letters

Builder questions Walnut Township zoning decisions


This letter is about a recent decision by the Walnut Township Board of Zoning Appeals, where by a 2 to 2 vote the board rejected a lot split for the infamous judge's lot on North Bank Road. The lot has 98 feet of lake frontage and 100 feet of road frontage.

The new owners wanted to split the lot into two, each having 49 feet of lake frontage and 50 feet of road frontage. Their contention was that if you go 20 or so lots on either side of their's, the lots are all about this size. Some lots are slightly, some slightly bigger. No precedent would have been set because it is the only lot in the area that is approximately double in size and many of the other lots have less than 50 feet of frontage. They were, in effect, asking to be treated the same as everyone else in the neighborhood, not differently.

The neighbors on both sides of this lot, in their words, vehemently opposed the split, claiming their property values would go down. I suppose it's possible… they say there is a first time for everything. The neighbors also claimed that when they bought their properties in 1983, one of the things that enticed them to buy was that there was a large lot next to them that couldn't be split. If that is true, then they showed some uncanny foresight in 1983 to inquire as to where 24 years later if their neighbor's lot could be split if the house on it was torn down or (burned down).

The reason given for the two "no" votes was that they didn't think they should go below the 50 foot standard. What is curious about this decision is that a few months ago this same board allowed Dyanni Homes to build a staircase on a new house in the fivefoot side yard setback. In this case, the homeowner and builder were told twice by the zoning inspector to halt construction of the staircase and to apply for a variance. When they ignored the order twice, inexplicably he zoning inspector reversed his ruling to allow the stairs to be built. The Board of Zoning Appeals backed up this new ruling stating that North Bank is a unique place and some leeway should be given because of the special circumstances there. In this case a precedent was set that will adversely affect dozens of new homes and their neighbors in the future.

Also, curiously, this decision was rendered shortly after Morgan Builders, your's truly, was specificallytold by the same zoning inspector that he could not build an outside staircase in the fivefoot setback. Is it special circumstances on North Bank or just special treatment?

So, there is a solution for the people trying to split their lot. Hire Dyanni Homes to do our work. I'm sure the zoning inspector and Board of Appeals will reverse their decision in an effort to be consistent. However, I offer a word of caution with this advice. When you begin construction, your contractor might need to be reminded that the bank along one side of the property is actually a dam with a big lake on the other side.

If anyone would care to dispute my account of what happened, be my guest. Most of it is a matter of public record.

Jim Morgan North Bank

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