Use Of Pavers In Easement Denied
By Anne McKay Garris
Yellow pavers, recently installed at 755 Eldorado Avenue, were determined illegal under Clearwater's Land Development Code, last week, by the Community Development Board.
The pavers, put down without a permit from the City, were placed in the ten foot utility easement and setback area at the rear of the recently remodeled home. When neighbors pointed out the pavers to the City's Planning and Zoning staff, an investigation was instigated. The property owners were instructed that they must apply for a permit to put a structure in the setback area as well as a petition to vacate the easement in order to be legal.
Staff denied the permit because the application did not give adequate reasons for this use of the setback area. Mr. Neil Thompson, Development Review Manager for the project, reported to the Community Development Board that there are eight requirements to be met in asking for "infill standards" which allow a zero rear setback in a single family residential district.
"These have not been met," he told the board. Among the requirements are: the applicant must prove that building on the lot would not be feasible without the infill use and it must fit with the existing character of the community, according to Mr. Thompson.
A representative for the property owners argued that neighboring properties have structures in their easements. However, citizens opposed to the granting of the permit presented research that showed none of these structures had been permitted since the new code took effect.
New board member, Richard Adelson, said he did not agree with staff's determination that pavers were "structures," pointing out that the definition of structures in the code included anything placed on the property by man. His view was that this definition could be used for grass or trees as well as pavers. He asked that the issue be postponed until the code could be amended to be more specific about the definition of structures. Board member Norma Carlough agreed with Mr. Adelson. "I like pavers," she said.
There was considerable discussion over the problem for utility companies needing to do work beneath the pavers. "Then the utility companies would have the right to remove the pavers and the owners would have to deal with replacing them," suggested one board member.
This was refuted by a citizen who told the board that a utility company had placed their ladders on the adjoining property, saying the surface of the pavers was too uneven for the ladders to be safely placed on them. This discussion was brought to an end by board member Jordan Behar who reminded the board that a vacated easement becomes the sole possession of the property owner and no longer available to the utility companies for any reason.
In vain, the representative of the property owners argued that a gas grill on the pavers had been permitted in the easement, therefore pavers should also be permitted. He stated that run-off from the pavers would drain on to the street, not on to the neighbor's property, but brought no proof of his statement. He also suggested the property owners would remove the small patch of pavers outside of the fence and replace them with landscaping.
Board member Frank Dame observed that no application had been filed for vacation of the utility easement. Board chairman Nick Fritsch noted that the owners had not proved that use of the property would be impaired unless the pavers were allowed. And board vice-chairman Thomas Coates made a motion that the property owners' appeal of the staff's denial of their permit should be denied.
The owners have the right to appeal the decision to the courts. If this is not done, the matter will be turned over to the City's Code Enforcement Department for further action.
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