Cedar Point board tables ‘unusual’ variance request regarding shed

Cedar Point will allow this shed at 159 Sunset Drive to remain on this property for up to four months while the owners apply for a building permit for the required primary structure, a residence. (Brad Rich photo)

CEDAR POINT — The Cedar Point Board of Adjustment voted unanimously Thursday night to table a property owner’s request for a variance for four months.

Town commissioners, acting as the BOA, met in town hall off Sherwood Avenue.

The variance request was from Catherine Davis of Midlothian, Va., who wants to keep an existing shed on her Cedar Point property at 169 Sunset Drive, though she doesn’t have the required building permit for the primary structure, a house. In her variance application, she states the shed was delivered earlier than it should have been and she wants to leave it there four months to obtain the building permit for the residence.

Ms. Davis and her husband, Ben, plan to retire to their new home and are going to work on it themselves, she said Thursday. During the work, the shed would be a workshop/storage area.

After construction of the residence is complete, the shed will become an accessory structure and will meet the necessary property line setbacks and location in the side yard relative to the home, Ms. Davis states in the application.

Without a variance, the shed would have to be moved, then be moved back to the property once a building permit for the house is obtained, at a cost of approximately $1,600 to $2,000, she added.

It quickly became apparent Thursday the BOA would have difficulty making the necessary “findings of fact” that would enable it to grant the variance. One of the four findings necessary is that the “hardship” to be addressed by the variance is not the result of “actions taken by the applicant.” In his remarks during the quasi-judicial hearing Thursday, Mr. Davis said the problem “is mostly my fault.”

The Davises said they met with Carteret County permit officials and didn’t believe from those conversations they needed to have a building permit for the primary structure before putting a shed on the property.

Neil Whitford, Cedar Point’s town attorney, jumped in.

“This is an unusual situation,” he said, but he believed it would be very difficult to grant the variance.

“If I’m on the board of adjustment, it would be hard for me to make the findings,” he said. “So, I suggest that we just delay the decision. We don’t want our property owners doing this, but property owners are human beings and human beings get things wrong all the time.”

Mr. Whitford said the board could legally accomplish the four-month stay of enforcement by tabling the decision until a Tuesday, Nov. 23 town commission meeting.

If by that time the building permit has been issued, the problem would be moot or discussions would continue.

Mr. Whitford asked if the shed has been hurricane-proofed and tied down. Ms. Davis said the $6,000 structure is tied down and they installed flood vents.

Town manager David Rief, participating in the meeting remotely, said the shed had been on the property for about a year and some nearby residents had complained to the town. He said he had worked with the family to try to resolve the issue through a variance, but had waited to do so until the large property was subdivided and it was easier to know where the house and septic tank would be placed.

Ms. Davis said she has a septic tank permit and believes she can get a building permit by the Nov. 23 meeting.

BOA member Scott Hatsell, who is also the town’s mayor, agreed with Mr. Whitford it would be difficult for the panel to find a way to legally grant a variance.

“I can’t even come close to that,” he said. “I can’t see where it would hurt to table it.”

“I’m in the same boat as the mayor,” added board member John Nash, who said he originally favored denying the variance and requiring the movement of the building.

Board member Gary Bray said he was OK with the motion to table if there was not widespread opposition.

Mr. Rief reiterated there had been a few complaints, but said he wouldn’t “weigh in” with an opinion on Mr. Whitford’s suggestion.

Board member Pam Castellano made the motion to table a decision until Nov. 23, provided the structure is tied down and meets flood ordinance regulations.

Ms. Davis apologized to the town officials for the mistake and said she would comply with the conditions of the motion.

“So now you’ve got four months to get the permit,” Mr. Whitford said. “If it turns out you aren’t complying, this will come back probably next month. The ball is in your court.”

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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