The Ocean View Board of Adjustment voted 3-2 this week to reject an application for a variance submitted by Davis, Bowen & Friedel Inc. on behalf of Windansea LLC, the developer of the proposed Ocean View Beach Club community. The variance would have permitted construction of a paved roadway with curb and gutter measuring 30 feet from back of curb to back of curb.
“The interpretation was so gray, we thought it was in the best interest to come to the board and apply for the variance, so that you know exactly what we’re requesting,” said Zac Crouch of Davis, Bowen & Friedel. “Different municipalities have different ways of interpreting things.”
Crouch said that, through his office’s interpretation the town’s code, by maintaining the town’s code and allowing for the ADA-required 5 feet of sidewalk, it would only leave a 3-foot strip for a buffer between the sidewalk and the grass curb.
“Typically, the grass curb is encouraged to be 5 feet,” explained Crouch. “That allows site distance for the trees planted in the strip from the roadway and sidewalk, so as it grows it’s not hanging over the road. There are also maintenance issues. As the tree grows, the 5-foot buffer keeps it so the root system doesn’t tear up the street.”
Crouch noted that the extra space would also be used during the snowy season, to place snow plowed from the streets.
He added that research has shown that decreasing the width of the road has been effective in “street calming” and would not diminish the maneuverability of emergency vehicles, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“There’s plenty of room to get whatever you need in there with two cars parked on both sides,” he said, adding that most places would not allow for cars to be parked on both sides of the street.
Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader asked Crouch if the community could be developed in conformity with the code if the variance was not granted. Crouch responded that it could.
Shawn Smith of Convergence Investment, who is working with the developer, said that they hope to create a more livable, safer community.
“We feel this is very important,” he said. “We want to make a more walkable, livable community but a safer community, as well.”
Public Works Director Charlie McMullen said that the development is in the town’s growth area and is to be a residential planned community and will consist of no more than 300 homes, of which 150 are to be single-family homes.
Clearwater resident Gary Bogossim said he was at the meeting to represent his development, which opposed the variance request.
“We at Clearwater, we think we have considerable standing in these matters, as we are surrounded on two sides by annexed property,” said Bogossim. “We believe the variance should be denied on several grounds. The main part is that the code interpretation would have to result in exceptional practical difficulties.”
He added that his development believed that narrower streets would not be safer for the community.
“We think roadway length is very important,” Bogossim said. “There are other ways to calm traffic, other devices, that as an architect we use, that do not restrict the roadway.”
John Buono, a resident of Villages of Southampton, said his development had a similar variance for narrower streets.
“Last year, our homeowners association had to pay out of pocket, over $80,000, to widen the road… We couldn’t get garbage trucks down our road.”
Clearwater resident Rick Seifert said he was concerned that the narrower streets would not be conducive to emergency vehicles.
“With a narrower street width, when you’re in an emergency, you’re not operating on full efficiency,” he said. “When you’re hustled, you may not be able to maneuver that.”
McMullen stated in his report that, aside from those speaking in opposition at the public hearing, the Town had also received a number of letters, with approximately 40 signatures in total, stating they were against the variance.
Commissioner Tom Sylvia motioned to grant a variance to permit 32 feet from back of curb to back of curb, allowing for 4 feet of a grass barrier. Commissioner Susan Kerwin also voted for the variance, with all other commissioners opposed. The request for a variance was then denied with a vote of 3-2, with Sylvia and Kerwin opposed to the denial.