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Board of Adjustment grants variances: Commercial and residential projects approved, with stipulations

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 The Grayson Board of Adjustment met on Monday night to hear requests for variances on three different proposed projects – one residential, one commercial, and one related to a county E911 project. 

The first was a residential building project at a property along U.S. 60 within city limits. The owner of that property, Brenda Sexton, wishes to build a two car garage on the site. But, because of the layout of the lot, the only way to adhere to the 30 foot setback requirement would be to dig into the hillside and put in a retaining wall. This would add significantly to the cost of the improvement. Because of this the owner was asking for a variance to the 30 foot setback, and asking that she be allowed a 15 foot setback instead. 

Mindy Woods-Click, with the Planning and Zoning Board, noted at the beginning of the meeting that one of the reasons for allowing variances was due to lot layout or dimensions impeding the ability to adhere strictly to the zoning requirements. 

Grayson code enforcement officer Duane Suttles told the board that he had spoken to neighbors, who had no issues with granting the variance, and that it would still place the front of the garage outside of the 55 foot right-of-way required from the center of U.S. 60. 

The second request heard by the Board of Adjustment was from E911 director Joseph Lambert. Lambert explained that he would like to have a new entryway built onto the E911 center. He said it would be necessary before the E911 office could receive a National Crime Information Computer (NCIC). This computer, he explained, could provide the E911 office with information on potential criminals that they currently have to call state police to receive, and could help local law enforcement act more quickly and decisively if they were in contact with a potentially dangerous individual. 

But, he said, because of the sensitive information that can be accessed through the computer system the E911 center needs to install an extra layer of security in the form of an extra locked door between the entry to the building and the interior offices where the computer will be located. Until they have this extra layer of security, they will not be granted the NCIC system. 

He said the extra layer of security would also help keep E911 personnel safe in the event someone attempted to force their way into the center. This was an issue the center had to deal with recently. While the individual was unsuccessful at getting through the exterior doors, the extra layer of security provided by an extra locked door would add to the peace of mind for E911 employees. 

Lambert said there was “no room” to add another door inside the center, explaining this was why the service wanted to add an extension to the entryway. 

Suttles said the only potential issues he could see with the project would be the possible location of sewage, water, or gas lines under the area where the entryway would be built. If there were any of those infrastructure features under the area, he said, future repairs might require the demolition of the new entryway. He said he would reach out to utilities departments to make sure this would not be an issue. 

He added that while the E911 office was technically in the central business district, which allows building right up to the right-of-way without need of a variance, because the E911 office also abuts a residential area it is bound by the stricter residential rules unless the variance is granted. 

The final request came from JMK Electric. The company, which is also located in a residential zoned area, currently has two trailers that are being used for storage. These trailers, however, are in a state of disrepair. Because of this they aren’t functional as storage. Though they have items currently stored in them, the company doesn’t allow employees to go into the trailers to retrieve the materials because of potential safety issues related to decaying floors. The trailers are also not aesthetically pleasing in their current state. 

JMK wishes to replace these two trailers with a storage building that would be more functional and would be more aesthetically pleasing. While the company is fairly sure they would be within their rights to replace the trailers without requesting a variance, they wanted to approach the board to make sure they were following all rules. 

After hearing from each of the properties seeking variance, the board entered regular session to discuss each property and vote on the variances. 

They moved the grant the Sexton variance as requested. In the other two cases they moved to grant the requests with stipulations. 

The E911 variance was granted contingent on the approval of utilities and confirmation that the new entryway would not impact access to utility lines.

In the JMK request the board agreed that the request would definitely create an aesthetic improvement at the property, and noted that – though it was in a residential area – they didn’t foresee a change in usage anytime soon. While they initially discussed tabling the discussion and asking the representative back, because the property is currently a non-conforming usage in a residential zoned area. While they could have looked at changing the zoning, they decided they didn’t want to hold up any improvements. 

Woods-Click said while the planning and zoning commission could look at changing the zoning – which would allow the change even if it meant a possible increase in traffic if the storage space also became office space at some point in the future – she added she felt it would “seem a shame not to allow them to improve” the property for their own benefit as well as that of their neighbors. 

The board moved to offer granting the variance if they moved the front of the proposed building back 30 feet from the property line, as required in a residential area, rather than the current 20 feet of the trailers. 

Suttles, as code enforcement officers, was tasked with informing each of the requesters of the boards decisions. He said he would notify Sexton and JMK of the board’s decisions right away, and would inform Lambert and E911 as soon as the location of any possible gas, water or sewage lines were verified. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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