Citizens who are not happy with the new three-story home being constructed at 311 East State Street in Culver appeared before the Town Council Tuesday evening to voice the concerns.
During the Citizens Input session Tom Yuhas and his wife Teresa live full-time at 430 State Street in Culver. Reading a letter he presented to council members he said he has concerns with the upcoming BZA height variance request of Gregory and Alyssa Burns for the home at 311 East State Street. The current standard is 35 feet above the natural grade. Tom said they are opposed to approving this variance as it will set a precedence. He said during a previous BZA meeting they required a home on East Shore to remove the roof trusses and redesign them so the home met the height standard.
Yuhas said, “The entire sequence of events for this house at 311 State Street has been unprofessionally managed by both the BZA and the Building Commissioner. These people are appointed or hired by you the town council.” Trying to have better communication between the council and the various boards has been a priority of the Culver Town Council. He went on to say that at least 8 neighbors are opposed to the variance request.
Yuhas contends that the trusses laid on the ground for three weeks and the building commissioner could have done his measuring at that point and determined that they would exceed the town’s standard. He said they were installed, and the roof was sheeted and shingled and now they determine it’s too tall. To receive a variance, they owners must show a hardship. Yuhas said the only hardship they have is they went on with construction knowing the home was going to be too tall.
Following the reading of his letter there was an applause in the Culver Town Hall meeting room.
Council President Ginny Monroe read a letter into the minutes from Robert C. and Vickie Paul. It said, “I bring this matter before you because the BZA has wavered in its enforcement of the Town Ordinances and the past variances regarding this property.” The letter went on to say, “The Town of Culver has a process in place to address such situations. Is this process flawed or has the BZA errored in their handling of this matter?”
The Pauls closed their letter saying, “It is important that the Town of Culver be responsive to the needs of its citizens as long as they do not step outside the ordinances they have created. The Town should not leave the public with the impression that it is acceptable to circumvent or ignore the processes that have been adopted.”
Vern Chmielewski had previously sent letters to the Culver Town Council member but wanted to read his letter during the meeting Tuesday evening. In his letter he said, “When someone buys a piece of property, they should be given the opportunity to develop it within the structure of the BZA rules. The rules are in place for EVERYONE to follow and to prosper by.” His letter went on to say, “This young couple played the BZA members. They learned of the underlying town interest to draw new young couples to the community and gave them the answers they were looking for. The BZA never held them accountable for any buildout matters on their property.”
Leigh Marshall Secretary of the Culver BZA explained to the town council, “What happened in the beginning was that the Plan Commission changed the ordinance saying if you tore down a house and you built on the original footprint that you would not need a height variance. You could build up to 35 feet. The council changed the wording and insisted that if you build upon the original footprint that you would need a height variance.” She said the problem is that the books were not updated or shared with the appropriate people.
Marshall said the couple was given a building permit by the county to build the house to 35 feet. The Burns presented a drawing to add a porch on to the original home which the BZA approved but days after receiving the variance they tore the home down and started a brand new 3-story structure.
Marshall and Chuck DeWitt the Building Commissioner went to the property and required a measurement and when it was done they learned that the home was over the standard of 35 feet. Mr. DeWitt told them if they proceeded with construction, it was at their own risk.
Building Commissioner Chuck DeWitt was online and said a stop order was placed on the construction. He said, “All of the things that have been said are not true. I don’t think this is the place to argue them.” He said the BZA meeting on Thursday 4/15 at 6:30 in the town hall. DeWitt said, “That’s the time to bring these letters to the BZA.
DeWitt said, “I don’t think they will get a favorable vote. As we alluded to earlier. I don’t think the BZA will give them a favorable vote, but I don’t have a vote in that. It will be my recommendation to deny the request and go back and reengineer everything.”
The contractor went against the building commissioner’s direction when he told him not to install the shingles. The owner told the contractor to go ahead and install them.
There are fines that can be imposed on the contractor and the owner. That will be discussed Thursday night.
The meeting will take place at Culver Town Hall, 200 East Washington, Culver.