A property owner who wants to build a detached garage on her property won an appeal filed by a neighbor who objects to the structure, claiming that it will “detrimentally” affect the surrounding property values.

On Monday, the Yuma Planning and Zoning Commission, sitting as a quasi-judicial appellate body, reviewed the variance approval made by the city’s hearing officer on Sept. 26 to determine if the decision met the criteria required for approval.

Roberta McDermott asked for a variance request to allow the location of the accessory structure on her property located at 1441 W. 16th Place. (Disclosure: McDermott is a regular columnist for the Yuma Sun.) The zoning code requires that detached accessory structures be located behind the midpoint of the main residence. Plans called for locating the detached garage with the same setback as the front of the house. A staff report noted that since the desired construction and location did not conform to the zoning code, McDermott and her construction contractor had the option of seeking a variance.

Alyssa Linville, community development assistant director, explained that following the approval from the hearing officer, neighbors David and Constance Chapman filed an appeal stating “that the proposed structure would diminish property values within the immediate area because it is not constructed in a style matching the main residence.”

City code allows for appeals to be heard by the commission. The property owner and the neighbor were allowed to address the commission and respond to the comments.

Asked by Chairman Chris Hamel what he felt would be a detriment, David Chapman pointed to the aesthetics. “As I walk out my front door everyday, my front door faces where they’re going to put this structure, my concern is that this structure, although well constructed, might look like something that was just dropped there and won’t complement the existing home,” he said.

“How is that a material detriment?” Commissioner Greg Counts asked. Chapman noted that the structure would not match the others in the subdivision, which he believes would detrimentally affect his property values.

“I’m baffled by this whole situation,” McDermott said, noting that city statute does not require matching structures. However, she pointed out, the colors of the $30,000 “quality” garage would match the existing house.

She also pointed out that a friend is buying the house belonging to the neighbors who object to the garage.

“We’re doing what the law requires, and I see no reason why I’ve now been delayed six months from building this structure,” McDermott said.

Her contractor, Chris Morris, noted that the garage would exceed the required 7-foot setback and would be around 10 feet or so. To appease the neighbors, they removed windows facing their home.

Morris also pointed out the four items of criteria for a variance and said they met all four conditions. Noting the fourth condition, he said, “I don’t see how this structure will cause a detriment of public safety or welfare to the neighbors. It doesn’t state if the neighbors don’t approve the appearance of it or don’t like the aesthetics of it, but that it’s actually a detriment as far as public safety goes.”

Morris added that it wouldn’t be a “sore thumb,” even with the use of a different construction method than that used with the primary home.

Chapman explained that “when all this started my house was not in contract, it was only for sale. I don’t believe that has any bearing on it whatsoever.”

Constance Chapman spoke of their intention: “We are not opposed at all to the structure. It’s the aesthetics that have us concerned with property values, not just our home, but the entire neighborhood.”

Hamel commented that the garage would not be a “cheap building thrown up overnight” and that any type of improvement that adds square footage and more usage would not be considered a detriment to a potential buyer.

Counts moved to approve the request to allow the construction of the structure in accordance to the direction given by the variance hearing officer. The commissioners unanimously approved the motion.

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