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ZBA continues discussion of Jakes' World Auto addition

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2/16/2007

By Lisa Loomis

Jake's World Auto building can be considered a non-conforming single story building - at least for the purposes of expansion.

That was the initial consensus of the Waitsfield Zoning Board of Adjustment this week when the board again considered a request by Jake Cady, owner of the business, to expand his operation.

Cady was at the ZBA on February 13 to continue his application hearing, which began on January 23. He came in with a third proposal, his third attempt to expand his business. This proposal calls for creating a 1,980-square-foot addition with a full basement at 870 square feet and a first/ground floor of 1,110 square feet.

In the fall of 2005 Cady asked the ZBA for permission to build a single-story addition for an office, showroom and waiting area (plus handicap bathroom) which would be attached to his existing garage bays via a breezeway. That proposal was denied with the board ruling that the project did not meet Waitsfield's two-story minimum for new construction/remodeling in the Irasville Business District.

Cady and his attorney, David Olenick, argued that the existing garage bay had two stories and that the new single story addition was adding on to a building that met the zoning requirements in that district.

This week, Cady continued his discussion with the board as to whether he can build a single-story addition that is no greater than 50 percent of the square footage of his existing first floor. The zoning ordinance, under a provision that allows pre-existing non-conforming uses to expand, provides the opportunity for Cady to create an addition of up to 50 percent if it does not increase the degree of non-conformity of the building.

When the board last discussed the issue, board members wanted to conduct a site visit to see if the building is properly considered a single- or two-story building. Board members did visit the site and board member Bob Shaffer told board chair Brian Shupe that the proposed location of the addition is on a bank that has very steep slopes and is inappropriate for either excavation or construction.

"We don't want to see any lower level constructed because of the grades and the proximity to the stream back there," Shaffer said.

Shupe asked the board to consider the question of whether the basement should be considered a story or just a basement. The criteria to be considered a 'story' include having more than 50 percent of the walls exposed and having a main entrance facing the street. The lower level of Jake's World Auto does have the requisite amount of wall exposure and has a front entrance which faces Route 100 at an oblique angle, but the board was unsure that both criteria had been met. Board members considered whether the 'front entrance' criteria meant the main entrance to the business and if that is the case, the main entrance or front entrance to the car sales and repair business is not via the basement but rather via Route 100.

"Is this a non-conforming use because it's a single story?" Shupe asked.

"It's a non-conforming use because of the setbacks. What kind of a position are we in to have him not build that lower level because of the topography? Can he get a variance to build a single story at grade?" Shaffer asked.

Shupe said a variance would be difficult because to grant a variance, the board would have to find that Cady had no reasonable use of the property and it has been consistently in use for the past three decades for auto repair and sales. He suggested the most viable option may be for the board to find that Cady has a non-forming building which can be expanded up to 50 percent of the square footage of the non-conforming building - in this case, the single-story auto repair business which is about 1,600 square feet.

Before going further on how to classify the building and/or Cady's expansion options, the board decided to review its previous decision to look at why this option was not considered in the last time around and why it felt, in 2005, that any expansion at that property would have to be two stories.

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