BUCKEYE LAKE – Buckeye Lake Village’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a variance to allow freestanding garages within very specific guidelines, even though no other Ohio village has approved such a measure to village solicitor Butch Bindley’s knowledge.
“I, personally, am totally for this variance,” said planning commission chair Karen Cookston. Now that the planning commission has approved the variance it will go before the village council for final approval or rejection.
The variance would allow the village board of zoning appeals to consider approving a freestanding garage for construction on a separate lot from the owner’s residence as long as the lot it’s built upon is diagonal or oppositely positioned from the garage owner’s residence, the garage must be permanently identified with the lot, the size must be proportional to the owner’s house (but the garage may only have a three car capacity maximum), and the house and garage must be leased or rented to the same owner. The house’s resident must be the garage’s primary user.
“I am not in favor of freestanding garages,” Bindley said. He said he’s never seen a village allow a freestanding garage on a separate piece of property from the garage user’s house. But, “I recognize Buckeye Lake is unique.”
Bindley said he understands that Buckeye Lake Village has some very small properties and if some homeowners want to build a garage they are forced to do it on an additional piece of property, simply because it wouldn’t fit on the same property as their homes. The small properties are a hardship on Buckeye Lake property owners.
As for liability, “There are risks for liability no matter what you do,” Bindley said. He said it’s just a matter how far way from the norm the idea is. “The norm is not what we’re taking about,” he said. Bindley said the planning commission couldn’t adopt a regulation that would cause devaluation of property. “I haven’t found another community,” he said, that’s discussing a similar variance.
Cookston said according to existing zoning, a freestanding structure in R2 residential zoning must have at least 850 square feet of livable space and functioning utilities. Over time, Cookston said individuals have not followed the spirit of the regulation and built garages that have 850 square feet of residential space in addition to storage space. “So, the primary function is not residential; it’s a garage, but the code is met,” she said. “In some instances, it’s been confused.”
Columbus realtor Sherry Segna said, “There are lots screaming for garages. A home is not going to go there.” She said she believes the variance is a good thing because, as Bindley mentioned, some lots in Buckeye Lake Village are too small for houses but well suited for garages. With the variance in place, the board of zoning appeals could deny an unacceptable design.
Resident Rich Smith asked if the majority of neighbors have to agree the design is acceptable for the neighborhood.
“That’s hard to say,” Bindley said. He said the BZA should evaluate the evidence and decide what’s best for the community.
Cookston said it’s the BZA’s responsibility to listen to people and hear their concerns. “It’s our job to listen to the public,” she said. Requests must be considered objectively. She said she contacted many real estate experts and they said their man concern is “absentee owners,” who own the garage but don’t live nearby. The regulation they passed ensures the owners live nearly adjacent to the property.
Resident Gregg Kearns he heard no negative comments about the regulation from the community. “People don’t want pole barns,” he said.