Bethany BoA denies request to exceed lot coverage limit
The Bethany Beach Board of Adjustment on Feb. 8 denied an application for a variance to the maximum 40 percent lot coverage requirement.
The application was filed by Ralph Timmons of Hickory Hill Builders on behalf of homeowner Wallford Inge, for 100 Ashwood Street in the R-1B zoning district. The lot is a 50-by-125-foot corner lot with a total size of 6,250 square feet. Under the town’s maximum 40 percent lot coverage, the maximum lot coverage for Inge’s lot is 2,500 square feet.
In the fall of 2011, the Town issued a building permit for additions and repairs to the dwelling, according to Building Inspector Susan Frederick.
At the time, the existing lot coverage was estimated to be 2,355.7 square feet, or 37.7 percent of the lot. That included the deck from the adjoining property, which encroaches into the west side-yard, as is uniquely the case for most homes in the R1B district, the Sea Villas community.
The plans approved in the fall included a rear addition that adds 142 square feet of livable area, for a total of 2,497.7 square feet, or 39.9 percent lot coverage.
Frederick said the owners now would also like to construct a new cantilevered deck on the east and north sides of the home, adjoining an existing upper deck on that side. The proposed upper deck would add an additional 60 square feet to the home, which would increase lot coverage to more than the maximum 40 percent, at 40.9 percent.
Timmons pointed out that, had it not been for the neighbor deck encroaching on the property, there wouldn’t be a need for Inge to apply for a variance – “160 square feet encroaches [from next door] onto the property, and we just want 60 of that 160,” explained Timmons.
“If it wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have to be here – if it didn’t encroach,” agreed Board Member Vahan Moushegian.
After it was pointed out that all the properties in Sea Villas could – and at one time did – have their decks encroaching on a neighbor’s lot, written in the community’s deeds as a permanent easement, Moushegian noted that Inge was at a particular disadvantage, with the property being a corner lot.
Other board members then pointed out that he had an advantage in other ways, because his lot was already 10 feet wider than the standard Sea Villas lot and, therefore, he had more square footage in the lot and thus had already gained additional leeway in lot coverage, by right.
Inge’s nextdoor neighbor, Dale Voorhees, had signed up to speak to the board in both opposition and in support of the application. He said he had expanded his property much like Inge was requesting but had stayed within the limitations.
“I knew of the 40 percent coverage limit. And I have exactly the same condition, only worse with my neighbor,” he said of the encroachment on the opposite side of his lot.
“I don’t oppose anything they are doing,” Voorhees added. “If anything, I would oppose the rear deck, because it is going to block my view. But, hey, it’s within code and he is invested in his property. The net affect will be an enhancement, not a deterrent.
“It’s all going to enhance the neighborhood,” he said. “I’d rather have the deck and not the expansion in the back...”
Going back to his points of opposition, Voorhees concluded by saying, “We have the code for many of us to have a nice neighborhood. We need to make it fair. It’s there for a purpose.”
Board members asked Timmons if there were minor changes he could make to give his client what he needed and still stay within the 40 percent maximum lot coverage, and he said there were.
The board then deliberated on each of the criteria they consider for granting a variance and voted unanimously, 5-0, to deny the variance, based on the fact that there were other options available to the homeowner. Although Mousheigian had been the most vocal about the fairness factor, he eventually voted to deny the request, as well.
He reiterated the fact that his initial thought that the homeowner had a disadvantage was compensated for by his having a corner, and therefore bigger, lot – something most of the property owners on his street do not have.