BZA Geauga County Housing Coalition Sept. 18, 2012

The Newbury Township Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing was called to order by Mr. Ray Fidel, Chairman at 8:30 p.m. on September 18, 2012 with Board members, Mary Lee Brezina, Bill Skomrock Sr., Chris Yaecker and alternate Ken Blair present.  Ms. Endres  presented screen views for board review. All in attendance who wished to speak at this hearing were duly sworn and asked when testifying to state their name and confirm being sworn in. Mr. Fidel read the area variance request:


Reba Dykes, agent for the Geauga County Housing Coalition, requests an area variance to build a new two story single family home ( 655 Sq. ft. 1st floor & 835 sq.ft. 2nd floor) to replace/demolish a blighted structure on 2 non-conforming back-to-back 40 ft. wide  x 100 ft. deep lots in the Kiwanis Lake Subdivision - 8 ft. from the side lot line & 14 ft. from an interior rear lot line (vs, Art. V: Sec. 5.05 req’d 16 ft. side & 30 ft. rear setbacks with minimum: 160 ft. lot width, 16,000 sq.ft. lot total & two-story house 600/900 sq.ft.) located at 14714 Elm Dr & 14713 Westfield Dr. in the R-1 district.


Mr. Fidel asked Ms. Dykes to present her case.  She explained that the Geauga County Housing Coalition was a 501C3 tax exempt organization whose purpose was to provide affordable housing for low to moderate income county residents.  As President she works with GMHA and senior housing – there are about 16 to 20 active participating members.  This is their 1st time working in the Kiwanis Lake Community razing and rebuilding houses.  No, they are not like Habitat for Humanity whose clients contribute “sweat equity” to the new house.  They are administering a grant, originally given to Ashtabula County, for neighborhood stabilization that allows rehab, demolition and/or property purchase for new homes intended to raise community housing standards.  They propose to sell this single house to a qualifying family.  They had not met with the Kiwanis Lake Home Owners Assoc. – Ms. Endres indicated the Association never had given approvals in the past.


Mr. Fidel said the existing house should be demolished and the lots sold to adjacent neighbors.


Ms. Endres showed photos of the existing house that was in very bad shape and that had generated numerous past complaints.  Mrs. Herwig, the neighbor across the street, said in the past they mowed the grass because they could not contact the owners who left the house a mess with water in the basement.  The even circulated a petition to raze this “safety hazard” but that never worked out either.  They did bid at Sheriff’s Auction but were outbid by the Housing Coalition.


Mr. Yaecker asked about the septic system.  Ms. Dykes submitted a letter from the GC Health District (as Exhibit A) stating they would need authorization from the Ohio EPA for discharge to the ditch from such a small lot with instructions included for the required application.  Mr. Tomsic described the type of on-lot aeration system required.


Mr. Fidel stated that the 2 back-to-back lots were not large enough – only half of the square footage required.  The original septic system had a tank with an exit to Elm Dr. per Mr. Nicholson who owns lots south of the site.  Ms. Brezina said the applicant may be able to get an exemption from the Ohio EPA.


Mr. Skomrock Sr. said the whole county wants to see the structure razed.  Ms. Dykes explained that the grant would pay for a new septic system before the old house was razed. The Coalition owns the property now and the grant could support sale of a new house to a qualifying low to moderate income ($74,000/yr) family of 4. Mr. Tomsic clarified that the sale monies would revert back to the county for future reinvestment in other homes for the purpose of increasing and upgrading homes for Geauga County residents.  Mr. Skomrock Sr. asked whether there was a dollar limit on the grant – yes – the total grant of $345,000 included the new house (1400 sq.ft. valued at $182,000) erected on the former site of PC’s Bar on Elm St. Ms. Matthews explained that the Coalition administered the grant whose purpose was not necessarily to make a profit on the house sale but to provide upgraded housing for low to moderate income residents.  Ms. Brezina asked whether the cost of a new septic system and razing the old structure would be too much – no – it would all be covered by the grant provisions.  Ms. Matthews said the coalition normally hires a general contractor who then subcontracts to professionals to perform the actual work.  Mr. Skomrock Sr. said he was concerned that the house could fit on those small lots.  He asked if there could be no new house built, would the Coalition still raze the old structure – yes – the grant provisions would allow that;  could the lots then be sold – yes.  Mr. Tomsic said that with the house razed and without a septic system (now discharging to Elm St.), the lots have little value.


Mr. Fidel opened the hearing for questions from the audience.  Ms. Herwig questioned whether this would be a single family home – there seemed to be some confusion regarding the county’s involvement for a possible group home.  She said she had purchased extra lots on Westfield Dr. which is now a very nice street except for the abandoned derelict house.  Mr. Nicholson said he bought adjacent lots for green space and thought that a two story house 8 feet from the property line of a narrow 40 ft. lot was too close and inappropriate for the neighborhood. He was outbid at the Courthouse foreclosure sale and couldn’t understand why the Coalition would buy these two restricted lots.


Ms. Dykes said she was here to request a variance, that she respected the views of the neighbors but was instructed to purchase these lots by the commissioners and that “the old house would go down whether the variance is or is not granted.”


Mr. Skomrock Sr. asked Ms. Dykes to confirm her last statement – which she did.  He said razing the old structure was most important and would be good for the neighborhood.  Mr. Yaecker concurred with Mr. Fidel that the two 40 ft. back-to-back lots were too small to build on.

Ms. Dykes said the Commssioners considered Elm St. as the gateway to Kiwanis Lake and chose PC’s location and this Elm St. and Westfield site for rebuilding.  The neighbors generally favor housing improvements and the Coalition may lose the balance of the grant money if other suitable building lots aren’t found within the time limit.


Mr. Fidel asked the board for any additional comments or questions.  Mr. Blair said he agrees with Mr. Fidel there is “not enough room” and thinks the neighbors could buy the lots when available.  Mr. Yaecker commended the Coalition whose purpose was not to make a profit but to improve the community. 


There being no more questions, Mr. Fidel called for a motion stating that a yes vote would grant the area variance as requested.


Chris Yaecker moved to approve the Area Variance as requested Mary Lee Brezina seconded the motion that was denied by unanimous vote. 


            Chris Yaecker                                                 no

Bill Skomrock, Sr.                                           no

Ken Blair                                                         no

Mary Lee Brezina                                           no

Ray Fidel                                                        no


Mr. Fidel read to the Appellant and audience, “Within 30 days after service of the minutes denying your request, if someone wishes to challenge this decision through the court, he or she may. The challenge could reverse or negate our decision. Mr. Fidel informed the Appellant and the audience that the 30-day period commences with the Appellants’ signing receipt of the signed minutes.  They will be mailed registered return receipt to the Appellant.  All persons receiving notice of the hearing will receive copies of the minutes. 


Mr. Fidel adjourned the BZA hearing at 9:30 p.m.  As the applicants left, Board members wished them good luck. 


The board established the Findings of Fact:


1)      The lots could not yield a reasonable return without the variance.

2)      The variance is substantial; too many variances are needed on these elongated lots.

3)      The essential character of the neighborhood would be improved and the adjoining properties would benefit because the applicant agreed to demolish the old structure even if the variance was denied.

4)      The variance would not adversely affect the delivery of government services.

5)      The lot owner purchased the property knowing the zoning restrictions.

6)      The owner’s predicament could not feasibly be obviated without this variance.

7)      The spirit and intent behind the zoning requirement would be observed by denying this  variance. There were neighbors in attendance who objected to building a two-story house on these narrow lots.

Mr. Fidel adjourned the meeting at 9:40.


Marge Hrabak Secretary                     Signatures of the Newbury Board of Zoning Appeals:



_________________________                                              ____________________________

Mary Lee Brezina, V. Chairman                                             Bill Skomrock, Sr.


_________________________                                              ________________________

Chris Yaecker                                                                         Ken Blair - Alt.


_________________________                                              _________________________

Ray Fidel, Chairman                                                               Marge Hrabak, Sec’y  BZA