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Residents granted permission to build

By Staff | Jan 7, 2011

After a six-month process of trying to obtain a building permit, Shepherdstown residents Roger and Anne Munro can begin construction on their new residence off of Bones Wright Street.

At Tuesday’s Board of Appeals hearing, the Munros were granted their building permit after the board moved to ratify the Shepherdstown Planning Commission’s October decision to deny the permit because of failure to comply with the town’s Parking and Zoning Ordinance.

The Munro’s site plans put the parking area in front of the house, which will be a two-level home with a portion of the home sporting a stilted deck overlooking the Town Run. According to the town’s Parking and Zoning Ordinance Section 9-207(b), “no parking space may be located in a front yard. This does not prohibit parking in a driveway.”

The Munros were represented by Shepherdstown attorney Frank Hill, who invited Alpha Associates, Inc. engineer Richard Klein to appeal to the board about why the best place for the parking area was in front.

Klein said with the site of the home pushed as close to the floodplain line without violating it, the parking area would have to be in the front based on the terrain and placement of the home.

“(The home) is basically as far back as you would want to have it and as far down as you would want to have it,” Klein said. “Forcing the driveway to the back would require two or three retaining walls and (will be) more dangerous to getting stuff into Town Run.”

The area behind where the Munros plan to build slopes down into the Town Run, and Klein said leveling that land would not only encroach on the floodplain but would cost in extra construction.

Hill also presented evidence of other properties around town with parking in the “front yard.”

While some of these properties have been around since before the ordinance was adopted, which according to Zoning Officer Harvey Heyser was in 1978, Hill merely wanted to show the board that the front or portions of the yard of other properties around town were used for parking.

Board Chair Dawn Fye had reservations, however, about Hill’s use of other properties as evidence.

“My only sort of observation of that is this is a vacant lot and a number of those properties have been in existence for hundreds of years,” she said. “I’m not necessarily convinced by that part of the evidence.”

But board member Francine Phillips said if another property had been granted a variance under the new ordinance, then it should weigh heavily on the board’s decision to also grant the Munro’s a variance.

“We know there’s been at least one. We’re sitting in it,” Phillips said, referring to the temporary Town Hall’s location in the plaza along Princess Street.

The board also discussed the recommendations the planning commission made to the Munros including a limited removal of mature trees on the building site after it denied them their building permit based just on the failure to comply with the parking ordinance.

“I have some reservations about some of the actions of the planning commission where they said they recommend but they didn’t vote on those things,” Fye said.

She added, “I would prefer that everything be by a vote, not simply by recommendations, as part of their approval.”

Board member Mary Bell said it seemed to her that the planning commission was recommending things outside its purview.

After grappling with the decision to grant the Munros their permit themselves or to send it back to the planning commission to grant the permit, the board ultimately decided to deliver it themselves.

“I’m certainly very grateful to the (board) for approving the application,” Roger Munro said, noting that when he first started the process in June, the planning commission tabled his application.

Building will begin as soon as possible, said Anne Munro, and their current residence – next to the lot they will build on – is up for sale.