The City Council unanimously approved a measure last week that will cut red tape for residents in the Walks and West End neighborhoods looking to elevate their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The resolution also closed a zoning loophole that allowed a developer to build a controversial two-family home on West Market Street last year and sparked a public outcry.
“This City Council previously asked for some changes to the zoning code that would protect the character of our community and make the process easier for residents who are lifting their homes,” said City Manager Jack Schnirman.
The council amended the city’s code of ordinances so that homeowners in those neighborhoods who are working to elevate one- or two-family homes no longer have to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals for approval, particularly for front and side-yard variances.
The structures must still comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local building codes.
“There were some very common variances that people were applying for and that everyone was getting, but it was delaying their projects while they waited for the zoning board to meet,” City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo told the Herald, adding that the council had been pushing for the change. “And there was some expense if you needed an attorney or architect to attend the ZBA hearing. Now, there’s really no need — it speeds up the process for residents.”
Since Sandy, 90 West End homes have required zoning board approval to be elevated, because they needed staircases, porches and decks where there were once just front and side doors, the city said. The previous zoning code, Eramo explained, required an appearance before the ZBA and a variance to build such staircases and decks.