Habitat, businessman get OKs on projects

Posted: March 15, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County gained swift approval Thursday for its plan to demolish a North End home and rebuild in its footprint, while a North Loudoun Street eatery owner narrowly got the OK to add a patio to the side of his cafe.

By a 3-2 vote, the Winchester Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) granted a variance that allows the Apple Valley Cafe, 674 North Loudoun St., to build an unenclosed patio onto the restaurant.

Sam Warden, the eatery’s owner, said after the hearing that he hopes to have the patio open in time for the 2013 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

He already has a head start on the project, which will add 45 seats to the 31 he has inside.

Warden told board members that he previously was told by a city official that he could build the patio and was informed in a phone call with building official John Knight that his permit application had been approved. He had concrete poured before picking up the permit but learned that his request had been denied when he went to Rouss City Hall to get it.

The Zoning Ordinance allows patios and similar structures to extend five feet into a required front or corner side yard. Apple Valley Cafe’s patio has a 13-foot depth.

Jodie Musolino, who spoke on Warden’s behalf, presented a document to the board showing that the permit application had been stamped for approval, but the stamp was crossed out.

Aaron Grisdale, the city’s zoning and inspections director, said permit requests go through a process that requires multiple approvals. Plans might be acceptable per the city’s Building Code but be rejected based on other criteria.

He said he spoke with Knight, who did not recall telling Warden he could start construction.

Warden told board members that he’s doing most of the work himself because he operated a home remodeling business in Great Falls for three years. Under questioning from board chairman Brian Hester, he said he’d never started a project without a building permit.

Hester and Brandon Pifer opposed granting the variance.

“The issue here is not a demonstrable hardship,” Hester said. “It’s a want, not a need.

“The Board of Zoning Appeals is not here to put Band-Aids on people’s mistakes who have not gone through the proper process.”

He added that he found it hard to believe that Warden thought verbal approval constituted permission to build in Winchester.

But Vice-Chairman Jack Phillips and board members Donald Crawford and Jason Ransom found wiggle room to approve the variance.

“I find this to be a particularly vexing application,” Crawford said. “The applicant should have known, based on his background, that he needed to get a building permit before he started.

“... With strict application of the ordinance, I could not support this, but other factors make me open to approve.”

The cafe decision followed a 4-0 vote to allow Habitat to raze the home at 400 Highland Ave. and build a replacement home, including front porch, in its footprint.

The staff recommendation was to approve the requested side-yard setback and covered porch encroachment into the front yard variances.

Grisdale said Habitat “appears to be presenting a minimalist request” and added that most existing homes in that area fail to meet those standards.

Hester recused himself from the Habitat case because he’s had professional ties to the organization.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Brian Hester, Vice-Chairman Jack Phillips and board members Donald Crawford, Brandon Pifer and Jason Ransom.

— Contact Vic Bradshawat vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com