City Planning & Board of Zoning Appeals, November 2018

November 30th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals & City Planning Commission
Nov. 13, 2018

Members Present: David Weiss, mayor and chair; Councilman Rob Zimmerman; citizen members John Boyle; Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells, Joanna Ganning
Others Present: Joyce Braverman, Director of Planning; Dan Feinstein, Senior Planner; William Gruber, Director of Law

Mr. Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. The agenda for this meeting and supporting documents may be found here. The minutes of the Oct. 2, 2018, meeting were approved.


Resident Janet Houk requested a variance to the side-yard fence regulations to add a 4-foot fence and ornamental gate in her side yard. Code requires the fence to be 10 feet from the neighboring house, but the requested fence would be only 6 feet away. Staff recommended approval. Mayor Weiss opened the meeting to public comment. Ms. Houk explained that the new fence is part of her plan for aging in place. The fence would enclose her back yard as far as her side door, the only door in her home with backyard access. This would allow her to let her dog out in the winter without the injury risk of walking in ice and snow. The motion was unanimously approved.


Vintage Development Group requested a variance to the fence and wall regulations for the second building of this 32-unit, single-family attached townhome development at the corner of Van Aken Boulevard, Onaway Road and Sutton Road. The applicant proposes a pair of retaining walls and ornamental fencing in front of the building due to the grade change to the sidewalk. The setback of the wall is from 0 to 4 feet from the property line; code would require a 9-foot setback. In addition, code requires landscaping in front of walls and fences, which will be impossible in this case. Staff noted that this is similar to the variance given for Building 1 of this development last year. It was not expected that Building 2 would require the variance, but after construction began, it became apparent that it would be. Lynn Harlan, representative for the developers, recapped the situation, sharing the plans for the project and pointing out landscaping incorporated into the design. Mr. Boyle asked if the developer expected to need a similar variance for any other buildings in the development. Mr. Harlan believes that would not be the case. The meeting was opened for public comment; there was none. The variance was unanimously approved.


The residents request a variance to the corner side-yard setback requirements for ornamental structures to add a water feature. Code requires ornamental structures to be located in the rear yard, 10 feet from the property line. The homeowners propose existing mounding and landscaping to screen the feature. Heidi O’Neill, landscape designer, explained that traffic noise in the side yard is loud and the water feature is meant to provide a more peaceful atmosphere. She also noted that the backyard faces a neighboring garage that’s at a higher level, creating an unpleasant view. She recapped the extensive landscaping screening planned and noted letters from surrounding neighbors agreeing with the plan. Ms. Ganning asked why the feature can’t go in the backyard. Ms. O’Neill explained the neighbor’s unscreened and higher-elevation driveway is intrusive. In addition, the size of the water feature makes it difficult to keep it the required 10 feet from the property line. The meeting was opened for public comment; there was none.

Mayor Weiss asked for further clarification about the backyard space. Mr. Feinstein explained that, due to the shape of the lot, the backyard is relatively small, making the side yard the de facto backyard. Ms. Ganning expressed concern about the landscape screening blocking the sightlines. Ms. Braverman confirmed that the landscaping would be compliant. There was a motion for approval. Aye: Mayor Weiss, Mr. Zimmerman, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells; Nay: Ms. Ganning


Residents request a variance to the front-yard setback regulations to expand the attached two-car garage to add two more spaces. This would put the garage setback at 78 feet; regulations require 90 feet. In addition, the garage would be 1,106 square feet, while code allows a maximum four-car garage of 800 square feet. Existing and additional landscaping is proposed to screen the street view.

Ms. Ganning asked if the plan was approved by the Architectural Board of Review. Mr. Feinstein confirmed that it was. He added that there were extensive discussions about other features of the proposed remodel of the home that were revised to be more in keeping with the personality of the neighborhood.

Ann Dunning, architect, representing the homeowners, recapped the plan. Mr. Gruber asked if they would be removing trees; Ms. Dunning said no. Ms. Braverman said there was no plan for the garage paving presented. Ms. Dunning replied that it would be only about 18 inches, enough to connect the existing driveway to the new garage. Mr. Boyle expressed concern about creating a precedent with this variance, since there are hundreds of Shaker homes similar to this one. Mr. Feinstein shared that Parkland is unique among Shaker streets in that there are many different setbacks, from 90 to 60 feet, so this would not be a precedent. Ms. Ganning asked why the garage couldn’t be placed on the side of the house. Ms. Dunning explained that the backyard is quite narrow (15 feet) and backs up on a golf course/country club. A garage there would break the golf course sightline for neighbors. The meeting was opened for public comment; there was none.

Ms. Braverman shared that there is precedent for four-car garages without full setback. She asked if they had asked neighbors for their opinion. Ms. Dunning was unsure; Mr. Feinstein responded that letters had been sent about the plan and hearing, and there was no response. Mayor Weiss asked about the level of screening landscaping. Ms. Dunning said there would be a great deal. Mr. Feinstein reaffirmed that there was past precedent for this kind of setback, and other houses on the street had smaller setbacks. Ms. Braverman asked that a more detailed landscaping plan be submitted; Ms. Dunning agreed to submit one. A motion to approve the variances was proposed and unanimously approved.


Brassica, a new restaurant coming to the Market Hall of the Van Aken District, requested a variance to the temporary signage regulations. They would like to install 329.3 square feet of vinyl window signage in the storefront facing Meade Road and 281.3 square feet facing Warrensville Center Road. Code allows temporary availability signs of only 12 square feet per street frontage. These temporary signs are proposed to announce the business, hire employees and block the view of the interior construction. They propose removal in February when the restaurant opens.

Mark Bailin, Diamond Signs and Graphics, representing Brassica, recapped the signage proposal. Mayor Weiss noted that the request states the proposal included a 30-day time period for the Now Hiring signage, and the rest coming down on Feb. 2. Ms. Ganning asked if the Architectural Board of Review had reviewed the signage. Mr. Feinstein responded that they had approved it since it was temporary and that the graphics are approved as well. The meeting was opened for public comment; there was none. A motion was proposed to approve the request with the addition that the Now Hiring signage, requested to be up for 30 days, have a hard take-down date of March 1.


Knez Homes requested a Conditional Use Permit for the establishment of a Small Lot Infill Development (SLID) Overlay District development, site plan review, subdivision of land, and variances to construct a single-family attached duplex on this vacant lot. There would be a front and a rear unit, connected by two two-car attached garages. The front two-story unit has three bedrooms. The rear, one-story unit has two bedrooms. The lot will be split with a shared driveway. A variance is requested to place an air-conditioning unit on the deck on the garage roof and to extend a 6-foot wood fence into the 5-foot side yard (code requires a 10-foot side yard to extend a fence there).

William Sanderson, Knez Homes representative, recapped the requests and shared the plans. Mr. Boyle asked if the deck air conditioner would be visible to neighbors or from the ground. Ms. Braverman confirmed that they wouldn’t be visible. Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells asked the depth of the setback of the front porch. Mr. Sanderson said it’s only 6 feet, because two homes on the lot make that 10-foot code setback impossible and that private space exists in the back. Mr. Feinstein noted that the SLID guidelines permit front porches. Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells suggested there’s wiggle room for a deeper front porch than on the plan. Ms. Ganning asked if a large tree in the front lot would block access by safety forces (fire trucks). Mr. Feinstein said that the width of driveways, garage placement and landscaping is common in this neighborhood. Ms. Braverman added that they would confirm with the SH Fire Department. Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells asked about the quality and appearance of the siding matching the wood and brick homes in the neighborhood. Mr. Sanderson discussed the quality of their materials and installation and added that many houses in the neighborhood have added vinyl siding. Mayor Weiss asked how the homeowners would address maintenance of the shared driveway. Mr. Sanderson stated that many of the homes they build share driveways, and they have homeowner agreements but not ones covering maintenance. Mr. Feinstein added that Shaker has many existing shared driveways without mandatory agreements. Mr. Sanderson will submit Knez’s standard homeowner arbitration dispute clause for review.

The meeting was opened for public comment. Reverend Johnnie Cochran, pastor at a church in the neighborhood, expressed his support for the project as a positive development for the area. Crystal Montgomery, a neighborhood resident, shared concerns about the air conditioner on the upper deck. Mr. Sanderson showed her the plans and how the landscaping and wall would block the view of it. Ms. Montgomery also asked if the front and back houses are the same color, asserting that two complementary colors would be a nice option. Mr. Sanderson said that the homes are planned to be built with the same color, per code. Mr. Feinstein added that homeowners who wanted different colors would be welcome to request a variance. Ms. Montgomery was also concerned about the 6-foot depth of the front porch as being smaller than others in the neighborhood. Mr. Sanderson responded that Knez does this depth on other homes and it’s quite functional. He also noted that they’re trying to balance providing outdoor space for both homeowners. In addition, he said, extending the porch would require raising the rooflines. Mayor Weiss asked if the AC unit were low-decibel design. Mr. Sanderson explained that it would require two of those units to cool the space. Mr. Sanderson confirmed that the board would like a deeper porch, with a setback variance.

A motion was made to approve the request based on its alignment with SLID guidelines and the Architectural Board of Review’s approval of materials, with the revision of adding a deeper porch (8 feet or whatever depth a setback variance would allow) and submission of a homeowner maintenance/arbitration agreement for legal review; the motion also approved the subdivision of the land. The motion was unanimously approved. Council confirmation of the SLID Conditional Use Permit is required.


Knez Construction requested approval of the site plan and variances to lot size and side-yard setback requirements for a new single-family house with three bedrooms and a two-car detached garage at the rear of the lot. The lot is 5,200 square feet, and code requires a minimum lot size of 5,600 square feet for three-bedroom single family homes in this zoning district. The driveway side yard setback is only 9 feet; code requires 10 feet. This construction is in a SLID zone, but it is not a SLID house.

Mr. Sanderson, representing Knez Construction, recapped the site plan and variances requested. Ms. Braverman mentioned that Knez holds three side-by-side parcels at that location and asked why this house, the middle of the three, was the first to be built. Mr. Sanderson said it made the construction work easier. Mr. Dreyfuss-Wells, referencing the earlier discussion of another Knez home in the neighborhood, asked if a deeper porch would be possible, to be in keeping with other area homes. Mr. Sanderson agreed that it would be.

The meeting was opened for public comment. Mr. Cochran reiterated his comments on an earlier Knez project that this was a positive development for the community. Ms. Montgomery reiterated her earlier comments about increasing porch depth to be in line with other area homes. A motion was proposed to approve the site plan and the variance for the side yard, with the revision of having an 8-foot porch depth instead of 6-foot. The motion was unanimously approved.


The city requested a re-subdivision of land in order to dedicate right-of-way on the east side of Warrensville Center Road in two small sections in front of the University Hospitals Management Services building. Ms. Braverman explained that plans are underway for a 1-mile path from the city border to Thornton Park. The proposed plans were worked out with University Hospitals and will include adding lights, trees, benches and landscaping. The meeting was opened for public comment; there was none. The proposal was unanimously approved. The project now goes to Council to dedicate the right-of-way.

The public meeting complete, a work session was begun.


Council and the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee have asked City Planning and Zoning Appeals Board to review the regulations for Type A (up to 12 children) and Type B (up to six children) day care centers since they haven’t been reviewed since 1995. They were created to meet any state regulations while providing lower-cost childcare options for residents. Mr. Zimmerman offered that Council has looked at state regulations about day care and found that Type B facilities are required to be permitted. He added that there had been a contentious Council meeting about residential daycares with a number of concerned citizens in attendance and that a full and careful review is needed. He said that Council had approved the city’s first Type A daycare, but put a moratorium on additional requests, pending review of the regulations. Mayor Weiss mentioned that he had asked the Law Department to review the regulations, but it wasn’t complete by the Council meeting where the Type A daycare was approved, and the review is still in progress. Mr. Gruber announced that the staff is leaning toward not allowing Type A centers, since they are not required by the state, and requiring registration of Type B centers, which is voluntary now. Mr. Zimmerman is concerned that allowing only one Type A will be seen by some citizens as granting a monopoly. Ms. Ganning shared information that Shaker has larger family sizes and the number of large families is increasing, while the overall population of the city is decreasing; she is concerned about affordable daycare for all residents. It was decided that more time was needed to discuss the challenges, so the topic will be moved to a future meeting.


Ms. Braverman reported that City Planning is seeking authorization for the city to apply for a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state to make major improvements at the Van Aken busway where the Blue Line ends and many bus routes begin. No grant is written yet, but this body will be involved in approval. Mr. Boyle responded that there is much room for improvement and other members agreed. The discussion will continue at the next work session.

The next meeting will be Dec. 4.
Lynn Lilly

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