An online journal documenting the planning and building process of our modern home from start to finish. It is intended to share our experiences throughout this project with all those interested in modern design.

Board of Appeals Hearing

The Board of Appeals (BOA) meeting was held today to see if a zoning permit would be issued. There were five variances requested by us:

1) to be within 20' feet of the south property line
2) to be within 10' feet of the west property line
3) to be within 50' of the centerline of the road or 17' from the right of way
4) to construct with a flat roof
5) to construct without overhanging eaves

The first three were requested in order to build in the same location as the existing building; the last two were requested in order to build a green roof. The Village Clerk went over the five variations as listed in our application and turned the meeting over to me.

I gave a PowerPoint presentation, similar to the last one I gave, only this time I concentrated on the reasons I was requesting the variations, and gave a list of community benefits including: strengthens dam embankment and foundation, provides example of green building techniques and construction/design methods, may improve utilities, improves the beauty of the area by replacing the deteriorating building with a beautiful structure, observatory will provide an educational resource for local schools, and continued use of property for residents to enjoy.

To make a long story short, the BOA members were not able to read and/or understand the maps that I had prepared for the project, the Department of Natural Resources threatened to sue the Village, and two of the BOA members didn’t like the idea of the project at all. Highlights include:

1) One of the BOA members was convinced we didn’t even own the property, even though an independent surveyor (hired by the Village) spoke and confirmed that we did!

2) Another BOA was concerned that our sewer connection would require disturbance of previously undisturbed earth. No matter how many ways I tried to explain that the sewer lines would run in the street/right of way in already disturbed areas, just like everyone else’s, he didn’t get it.

3) Two BOA members keep thinking the existing building was south and west of its real position. The Clerk provided the BOA members with an incorrect map of the area, prepared by the County for their GIS mapping project. Each time I explained it with all available maps including aerial photos, they kept forgetting and making references to the wrong location. During one exchange, after being told that the location of the mill building, “was most certainly not!” in the location I said it was in, one of the BOA members finally got it for a fleeting moment and said, “By golly, Annie, I think you’re right.”

4) They kept saying the property was zoned Conservancy, but it is really zoned both Residential and Conservancy, and the entire project would be considered Residential pursuant to the Village Ordinance. Because they couldn’t read a map correctly, they kept getting this point wrong.

5) The County Supervisor attended and was not in favor of the project. He said that it wouldn’t be allowed if it was in the County and that if it was approved here, it would go before the County and they wouldn’t approve it (too bad everyone couldn’t understand that the rules that pertain to Village are different than the County and he is wrong that it would go to the County for a vote).

6) The DNR had a letter read into the record, told the Village they would have to remove the dam if they allowed the project to move forward, said that they don’t want to “force the DNR’s hand” and make them sue the Village for not enforcing their zoning ordinance and finally said, “It is OK to vote no.”

7) Of course, our friendly neighbor, “Swede” was there, speaking out against the project.

On the good side, a few of the neighbors came and spoke in support of the project. But that didn’t matter. After the BOA heard that the DNR would potentially sue them and make them take out the dam, they didn’t really want or need to hear anything else. Without even questioning if the DNR even had the jurisdiction to do anything they were threatening to do, and without giving consideration for each of the variations individually and the reasons for them, in the end, the BOA members voted NO on the “project”.

They didn’t give any reasons until I pressed them for reasons. The most vocal BOA member said beauty is in the eye of the beholder and with a flat roof, four sides – that's a trailer, a crackerbox, and we don't want a trailer there (the existing building has a flat roof on half of they building). Also, there were too many variances all at once and just because someone thinks they can build a house somewhere doesn't mean they can. He also mentioned it is zoned Conservancy (it isn’t!), that there is no yard (there is more yard than most residential properties in town!), and we would have to go on private property to wash our windows (the property borders Public property, not Private!). It was too late for me to address these issues, and he hadn't asked about these concerns he had during the public hearing to make an educated decision.

One of the other BOA members said that she liked the building just the way it was (as if it was the Village’s building and a Village project), and didn’t want it to change. I said I didn’t hear any reasons pertaining to the three part test they were supposed to apply to grant or deny the variations and the Clerk said she’d come up with something out to it.

After the meeting, they decided to hire an attorney to draft a response. The meeting was not conducted like a typical public meeting – there were no rules of order observed and even though it went on for over two hours, it went by in a flash. I wanted to say so much and have them understand so they could make an educated decision, but I wasn’t able to get the message across.

Anne made the front page of the local County paper!!

A reporter for the local County newspaper, the Banner Journal, was at Anne's presentation and wrote a really nice article (on the front page no less) about our project. It was written pretty much correctly except for the fact that I am a pharmacist and not an engineer.