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  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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BZA Minutes

February 26, 2013

Board of Zoning Appeals
Minutes
February 26th, 2013

The Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Cambridge met at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 in the City Council Chambers located at 305 Gay Street, Cambridge, Maryland.

Board Members in Attendance: Brian Manning; Jane Devlin, Vice Chair; Frank Cooke; Wendell Foxwell; Ted Brooks, alternate

Members Absent: Rufus Sampson, Chairman

Other representatives in Attendance: Dan Brandewie, City Planner II

Ms. Jane Devlin called the meeting to order. She took the roll call of officers.

Ms. Devlin administered the oath to those wanting to testify.

Ms. Devlin said because she just came from an Ethics Training she will have to recuse herself from the Chair position for the first case. She will then be called back for the next case. In the absence of both the Chair and Vice Chair, they will need a temporary Chair to cover the first case tonight. Frank Cooke agreed to be Chair for this case.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES September 25th, 2012,

Mr. Brandewie stated the August, 2012 meeting minutes had been overlooked; however, the Sept. 25th, minutes were ready for BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) review. The Chair, Mr. Cooke, requested a motion regarding approval of the minutes.

Mr. Ted Brooks said there was no mention in the minutes of the economic options required by the HPC (Historic Preservation Commission) statute to consider the economics. Discussion followed on the proposed changes and on the issue of Board members if not voting on an application would be authorized to vote on the minutes. It was pointed out that Mr. Brooks did not vote on the case but participated in the discussion.

Mr. Foxwell moved to approve the minutes of September 25, 2012, seconded by Mr. Manning. Motion carried.

 

NEW CASES:

BZA# 03 FY 12/13, Cambridge Landing Townhouse Association, 110 Maryland Avenue, Cambridge, MD request for a variance to construct a 6 foot high decorative metal fence along side property line and riparian line per Section 272, Section 7. The property is zoned PWCD.

Mr. Brandewie provided the staff report. The applicant cited a primary need to address trespassing on the property with the installation of the fence. It would cross a 15 ft. storm water easement on the left side of the property. The City would have to authorize this and would require a maintenance clause holding the City harmless for repairs to the fence if they need to provide service to the storm water line. Staff believes the fence would help mitigate the trespassing and the driveway would appear not to interfere with visibility from the driveway.

For the record, all property owners within 200 feet of the property have been notified of this variance request. This request has been properly advertised and a placard was posted on the property in advance of the hearing. The P&Z (Planning & Zoning) Department received one inquiry from the Richardson Museum Boatworks Nonprofit Association, but no other comments.

Mr. Brandewie said the P&Z Department has no objections to the request; they observe that Maryland Avenue is a heavily traveled pedestrian corridor that links the downtown to the East Cambridge neighborhood. This pedestrian pattern is likely to increase with further development of the Boatworks operation and the Sailwinds project. The townhouse's waterfront is not intended to be accessible to the public; it is private property. They received other reports from other townhouse/condo association groups along Cambridge Creek with similar problems particularly the one on the end of Muir Street. They believe that trespassing would be mitigated by a fence situation in this particular case. The fence appears to be compatible with the nature of the surrounding land use patterns and visibility associated with pedestrian and vehicular traffic near the driveway entrance would not appear to be comprised with the design.

Mr. Marshall Rickert is a resident of Cambridge Landing Townhouses and he is speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors Townhouse Association in favor of this application for a variance. He advised the Board that he is a member of the City of Cambridge Planning Commission. In keeping with the Ethics Code which has been implemented, he wishes to stipulate that zoning variances do not come before the Planning Commission. Under the language of the Ethics Code he would be permitted to speak as a resident of Cambridge Landing. He also verified that with the City Attorney, Mr. Collison.

Mr. Rickert agrees with the Board that the strict language of the zoning ordinance addresses fences between residential properties, but no language is apparent that addresses fences between a residential property and a non-residential property. In an abundance of caution this is coming before the Board to be heard. If the sole purpose of the fence was to defer casual trespassing, this would be sufficient. He thinks it is unrealistic that somebody would climb over a 4 foot fence when they could walk in the driveway of the property. Originally Cambridge Landing was to have been developed on the property where it exists now plus the Boatworks property. Some of the internal boundary lines and placement of docks was under the assumption it would be a single development. Over the past three years, the Association has worked with the Boatworks and they have deeded over riparian access to the Boatworks so they could have full use of their bulkhead. The way the docks were configured under the original development plan and the common law riparian lines they couldn't have full use of their bulkhead. In return, an internal property line passed within 2 feet of the end building and went into the east driveway of this property. When the Townhouse Association started looking into re-landscaping after Hurricane Irene they found that they would be landscaping property he did not own. He negotiated a sale with the Museum and they bought a sliver of land for landscaping and fencing. He coordinated the landscaping plans with the museum. Regarding the fence, the museum stipulated they had two desires: 1) that the fence is of uniform height because of the appearance as an industrial boundary fence; 2) the fence design is compatible with their architectural theme which has been very comprehensively thought out. He believes the design he presented meets their requirements for compatibility and fits their development plans; and it meets the Association plans for the fencing.

Mr. Rickert said he would like to show the Board photographs. He took a series of pictures of fences, but the one that is most apropos to his argument is the waterside condominium at the end of Muir Street. You will see two photographs that have a 6 ft. high fence which goes along the side of their property line all of the way to the water along their boundary with the open space adjacent to them; which was the reclaimed environmental brown field originally owned by the power company, where they would have a similar kind of quasi-public versus private ownership and a similar fence design to what they are requesting.

Mr. Rickert said another part of the unusual aspect of how this developed out is that their boardwalk along the bulkhead actually crosses the riparian property of the Boatworks and the boardwalk ends along their bulkhead. When they build this fence, their goal is to extend it to the bulkhead line and then on a diagonal across the width of the boardwalk respecting their side of the riparian property line.

Mr. Manning said it is his understanding that without any variance they are allowed a 6 ft. fence from the bulkhead to the rear of the first condominium. Mr. Rickert said yes. Mr. Manning said that steps down to 4 ft. In his request for this, one of the things that made sense is that he wants to preclude casual trespassers from walking onto his docks. He is confused since he has a 6 ft. fence keeping people from going onto the dock to the rear of his condo and then going to 4 ft.

Mr. Manning said Mr. Rickert is asking the Board to make a leap of faith that the Boatworks wants to do this. It would be great if Boatworks would come here and say this is what they want. When the Board is faced with a decision like this in regard to the 6 ft. fence, if the decision is made to grant a 6 ft. fence then the Board will be setting a precedent. If Mr. Rickert is granted a 6 ft. fence height, then why can't someone else get a 6 ft. fence? His thought is if the primary reason for wanting a fence is to keep trespassers out and you can do it with a 4 ft. fence which the zoning allows, then he has a hard time saying you could have a 6 ft. fence.

Mr. Rickert said he cannot speak for Boatworks other than to report that they have received copies of the proposal. He does not know if anyone from Boatworks has commented.

Mr. Foxwell stated that Mr. Rickert wants a 6 ft. fence in back of his property alongside the property line to Maryland Avenue. The Association bought some property from the Richardson Museum. It was a sliver of property so that they could re-landscape and develop a define boundary line. Mr. Rickert said in essence he squared off their property line so that if you look along the Boatworks bulkhead line and just extend that line out to Maryland Avenue that is our new property line. It is about a 3000 square ft. piece of land that they purchased. Their side property line goes all of the way to the water. He wants to start the fence on their boardwalk and bring it from there to Maryland Avenue. He will have a brick post about a little over 1 ft. by 1 ft. It will be brick matching the brick on their building and then capped with some sort of finish cap. It is a similar fence and height to Deep Harbor on Trenton Street. The fence and design will be custom built. The definition of the property line right now, except for the fact that they have planted grass on this sliver they purchased; you cannot tell where the Association's property line is relative to the museum property line. As the Boatworks becomes more successful and as their walkways and open space area along Maryland Avenue are developed, there will be more use of that property. He wants to establish where the Boatworks property is versus where our property is located. Mr. Rickert confirmed they are in agreement with the City's requirement for constructing a fence over an easement for maintenance work.

Mr. Rickert said the fence will go down the new property line on the Ruark Boatworks' side of that pie shaped slice that they bought, to Maryland Avenue and the brick post. The brick post has to be set back 6 inches from the sidewalk right of way; it will comply with that and all other building code requirements. His knowledge is that the vision that the Sailwinds team has is that they will incorporate their development design, their pedestrian flow, their bicycle trails, and their roads so that the Boatworks is consistent with the theme of the Boatworks. Part of that would be a walkway which is part of their longer range vision of the City from the Sailwinds part of the project along either through or along Hayward Street to Maryland Avenue and then down Maryland Avenue over the bridge and then into the heart of the business district.

Mr. Cooke asked Mr. Rickert to describe the nature of the trespassing incidents. Mr Rickert described problems with his wife's car being stolen. More frequently it is people coming in, swimming off the dock or simply just strolling along the dock as part of their stroll in the Boatworks area. They have had quite a number of pedestrians that are coming from the drawbridge who cut right through their landscaping through the corner of the building and across the Boatworks property which is a problem for them as well. Last summer he had more cases where he felt he had to call the police because of people docking their boats and getting off and coming there to swim and acting in a threatening way. In his opinion, a 4 ft. fence would do the same job as a 6 ft. fence as far as deferring a casual trespasser because nobody is going to climb over a 4 ft. fence with metal things on the top of it, if they could just walk around and come into the driveway. It will keep people from assuming there is some sort of a public right to use the dock.

Mr. Cooke stated he thinks Mr. Rickert's property is unique in the sense that he is not next to another set of townhouses, but rather next to what is more of an industrial property or a public space. It is not a residential space. This is not a fence between two residential properties. The front of the museum is on Hayward Street which would make this part of their back property line. It is not even a side property line. The development plan for that property is for public and semi-public use of the open space, walkways, interpretive landscaping. The development plan is under implementation right now. It is unlikely that there will be a residential development there.

Mr. Rickert stated that the individual residents of Cambridge Landing and the Board itself, strongly supports the efforts of the Richardson Museum

He stated there are 20 townhouses; about a third of them occupied full time. About a third are people who are not retired, but they come down occasionally on weekends and about a third are people who might live there for six months of the year and then go south for the winter. All property owners have been notified of this by the effort of the Board with the owners.

Ms. Anne Damianos, 606 William Street, noted she had similar trespassing situations. The adjacent church erected a six foot fence in the rear of her property and it has transformed the neighborhood by cutting down on casual trespassing. She spoke in favor of the application.

There was no one else to speak in favor or against the applications. The Board acted to close the public discussion and enter into deliberations.

Mr. Manning moved to close the discussion to the public. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Foxwell believed a six foot fence would serve as a better deterrent to trespassing than a four feet fence and is in favor of it with the maintenance stipulations.

Mr. Brooks noted this property is unique with the development of the Ruark Boatworks property and Sailwinds. A 6 ft. fence probably is a better situation because of the increased traffic that will be coming in their general vicinity. Not only is this land unique, but their situation is unique too.

Mr. Manning noted the 6 ft. fence in the dock area is viable and is allowed by the present zoning. To extend it is to set a precedent for something. It hasn't been proved to me that he really needs it. Security is mentioned; the 6 ft. fence going to Maryland Avenue does not make him any more secure because you can walk right around to the other side of the fence and walk down in there. This fence does not stop that from happening. It does stop someone from being down by the waterfront and deciding to go onto his property. The zoning presently allows him to do that with a 6 ft. fence. The only thing that he can see for the Board to grant something like that is to say it looks better. He does not think that is enough of a reason to grant a variance. He thinks the 6 ft. stops people from going onto his dock, nobody would leap over the 4 ft. fence with sharpened points and there is a way around it. So, security is not an issue.

Mr. Cooke noted that he has lived around waterfront and marina properties and he is familiar with trespassing concerns. Often when police arrived, typically teenagers would need an escape route and it would not be a problem for a teenage boy to hop over a four foot fence. He believes a six foot fence would serve to better prevent trespassing and would offer more security. Their property is unique; they are not abutting another residential property and they have more of a problem with trespassing than typical developments.

Mr. Foxwell moved to close discussion among Board members. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Foxwell moved to accept the applicant's variance request to construct a six foot high, decorative metal fence with the stipulation that the fence could be removed if necessary by the City for maintenance work on the storm water lines if necessary, without liability to the City for removal or replacement costs. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Mr. Cooke abstained from voting. Motion carried 2-1 in favor of the motion. Mr. Brooks-aye, Mr. Manning-nay, Mr. Foxwell-aye.

Mr. Cooke thanked Mr. Rickert for his participation in the process.

Mr. Cooke convened a brief delay to recall Ms. Devlin who had recused herself.

Ms. Devlin noted her reason for recusing herself and resumed her role as Chair for the next case and opened the public hearing.

BZA# 04 FY 12/13, Jason Bierly, 701 Radiance Drive, Cambridge, MD, requests for variance to construct accessory building in excess of 15 feet in height as required per Section 232 (1) (d). The property is zoned NC2.

Mr Brandewie reviewed his staff report. The applicant is proposing to construct an addition to his existing garage that is 16 x 24 and located in the rear of the house. This is a corner lot. The only variance issue appears to be one of height as far as the zoning ordinance is applied to accessory buildings. Mr. Bierly cites lack of street parking and minimal driveway space as one hardship factor proposing the additional garage space. He needs more storage as well in connection with a home occupation. The applicant bought the house approximately 2-3 years ago and he has undertaken a major renovation of the house. He added a whole story to the structure. Overall, the proposed site plan and sketch appears to be compatible with the neighborhood. He notified adjacent property owners within 200 ft. of the subject property and provided copies of the site plan. Since any structure that maybe erected in height could cause some impact on the view to the waterfront, the applicant was advised also to consider contacting neighboring property owners to seek their input. They received no inquiries from anyone in the neighborhood. He thinks there is some validity to the applicant's hardship claim about lack of driveway space. They have no objections to the variance. Staff wishes to point out that the proposed zoning code, which is hopefully going to be scheduled for public hearings soon, is suggesting an 18 ft. height limit to accessory structures. Staff's position is that the proposed height of eighteen feet is not even high enough; it should go to 20-24 ft. in height for accessory structures with the understanding that most communities and zoning ordinances are encouraging accessory structures at a higher height to accommodate potential accessory dwelling units and more storage.

Mr. Brandewie was asked why there is a height restriction in the ordinance and he said he did not know why the height was set at 15 ft. He has never seen accessory building height set that low. Most of the older accessory structures, especially in east Cambridge, the historic district and other parts of the City have sharper roof pitches that exceed 15 feet in height. He thinks it was a mismatch to the existing conditions when they set the height at 15 feet in the 2003 zoning code.

Mr. Manning asked what the ruling is on using the full bath in the context of creating a living space. Mr. Brandewie said there are no restrictions on putting the restroom facilities in the accessory structures. Once you move to put cooking facilities in a structure, it would be defined as a living unit which would then trigger other zoning regulations, water, utility, meter connection requirements, excise tax fees. As long as there is no kitchen facility located in the accessory type structure there are no zoning restrictions on it.

Mr. Foxwell asked if he had to have another driveway or would the existing one have to be widened if you are going to build a garage next to it. Mr. Brandewie said if the applicant is going to add two more bays it would probably be widened.

Jason Bierly, 701 Radiance Drive, Cambridge Maryland said he settled on the house on February 2, 2012. It has been over a year since he has completely remodeled the house and he moved in late August 2012. One of his hardships is lack of parking. He wants to improve the property and make it more conducive for parking and storage for himself and add to the community. He spoke with his neighbors and they do not have any problem with things. He communicates with his neighbors and has created relationships with them. They have supported the things he has done.

Mr. Bierly said his property is unique because he does not have a deep driveway alongside his house. When he parks it is half in the road and half on the grass; his grass is starting to show it. He is a builder. He does home renovations and small additions. He has a lot of tools and occasionally he has a trailer, one of which is right underneath of a lean-to. He does not have a backyard.

Ms. Devlin said for clarification. Mr. Brandewie stated the building complies with setbacks; was this correct?

Mr. Cooke asked if the applicant were to build a three car garage, you could not put the proper pitch roof on there and stay under the 15 feet? Mr. Bierly said there is no possible way.

Mr. Brandewie said there were sidewalks on one side of the street and not on that side. He was curious about storm water drainage, are there any underground pipes and/or drainage problems with that. Mr. Bierly said drainage is a major issue. DPW was there last month. It washed out dirt that he had brought in. Because of years of being washed out, it was wide open. There was one drain on the left hand corner where the sidewalk is and another one in the grass. It does not receive much water because there is no direct containment. The water goes down the left hand side which is covered up in leaves. It drains down and crosses onto his property and where the joint is for the 12 inch pipe, it was completely out. He has pictures of it.

Ms. Devlin asked if anyone in the audience wished to speak for or against the project. No one spoke.

Mr. Cooke moved to close the discussion. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Cooke said there are always problems with corner properties. What he is offering looks like a real plus for the beautification of the City compared to what there is now. He can make the argument because it is a corner property, he does not have driveway space, he needs to get off the street, the street is narrow; there is no curbed parking there. For that reason the Board should grant the variance in this case.

Mr. Manning said the fact that Mr. Bierly has no parking at this lot, the option is to park in the street which takes away half of the width of the street which is not a good thing. It is legal, but it is not good. Further mitigated by the fact that is Mr. Brandewie stated that the City is going to raise the height limit to 18 feet in a couple of months anyway. Now we are talking about a 2 ft. delta which is a drop in the bucket. He sees no reason whatsoever not to grant the variance.

Mr. Foxwell looked at the property and the community. He has enough space to put his building up. He thinks it would be a big improvement. One thing he adds, he knows he is a carpenter, but if Mr. Bierly could keep his property a little bit neater, it is jumbled up now. He sees no reason why he shouldn't be granted a variance.

Mr. Brooks said based upon the increase that the zoning is going up to 18 ft. in a couple of months and that there are other structures in the vicinity that are 20 ft.; he has a unique property as described and he is in favor of it.

Ms. Devlin agrees with Mr. Cooke that this is a significant footprint that will be put in. However this is a corner property which is under different scrutiny because there are two frontages to the lot. That in itself becomes a hardship. When you look at mandatory parking on a narrow street and parking on Rambler Rd., you are parking either on the grass or pavement which adds to other problems with the roadway as well as somebody's property. She thinks 15 feet is antiquated; it would never work with the size building being proposed. She thinks the case has been proven to accept as presented.

Mr. Cooke moved to close the deliberation. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Foxwell moved to approve the variance application as presented. Mr. Cooke seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

OTHER BUSINESS

Update on Zoning Ordinance

Mr. Brandewie said according to Ms. Roane, the Planning Commission is meeting on the 19th and they are hoping to schedule public hearings for late March and early April.

Ms. Devlin said they have to be very careful with the section of the ordinance that pertains to the Board of Zoning Appeals because there are some changes pending that they may want to come up with a position on, to present at the public hearing. From what she understands discussing matters with Mr. Jakubiak she does not know if the September/October draft ordinance is still the one posted on the website, but the most recent date with Mr. Jakubiak is the end of January.

Mr. Brandewie said if the Board has suggestions on the code for problems and issues that have come before them they should draft it up now. They should not wait until the public hearing to bring it up as an issue. The question is how does the proposed code deal with that issue? It is a very important issue to the community. He encourages the BZA to do their research on those issues that they feel are important to the community, and that are important to the Board.

Ms. Devlin requested that the most current draft in digital form be provided and for the Board to schedule a work session at their March meeting and have the draft at least two weeks before so they have time to review. Mr. Brandewie anticipates having a Board hearing next month as well. There are at least two cases. Ms. Devlin asked to have a work session another night, maybe they could address the comprehensive re-zoning as well as the by-laws and have the work session specifically for that. The Board agreed.

Board members expressed interest in reviewing the draft zoning ordinance. It was recommended to convene a Special Called Work Session on March 28th to review the new zoning document and to convene early on the meeting of the 26th to review the draft By-Laws.
Draft Review of By-Laws
No action taken.
Election of Officers
It was noted that Rufus Sampson was not present at the meeting.
Mr. Manning moved to nominate Rufus Sampson for the next Chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals. Mr. Brooks seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Manning moved to nominate Jane Devlin for the next Vice Chair. Mr. Foxwell seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Ms. Devlin moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:05 p.m. Mr. Manning seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

Respectfully submitted,

Trudi R. Jones Daniel L. Brandewie
Secretary I City Planner II

Signature: ____________________ Date: _________________
Chairman, Board of Zoning Appeals

Note: These minutes were approved at the BZA meeting conducted on June 25th, 2013.