Debate over standards could lead to new discussionThe Hastings City Council spent a notable portion of its meeting debating whether or not a Hastings homeowner should be granted a variance to build a new garage.
By: Katrina Styx, The Hastings Star-Gazette
The Hastings City Council spent a notable portion of its meeting debating whether or not a Hastings homeowner should be granted a variance to build a new garage.
The issue on the table was a relatively simple one. Blake and Rebecca Kiernan approached the council with three variance requests that would allow them to build a new garage. The property is within the Original Hastings Design Standards area, but features of the property didn’t allow the garage to be built according to the standards. The Kiernans asked for three things: review the OHDS, allow the driveway to access the street instead of the alley and allow the garage to be placed only five feet away from the edge of the lot instead of the 10-foot standard.
The council approved the first two pieces easily. But the setback led to a bigger discussion. While the planning commission had recommended approval on all three points, city staff recommended denying the setback variance. Staff figured the garage could simply be built smaller in order to meet the setback requirements, said Community Development Director John Hinzman at the meeting.
What the council discussed most wasn’t whether or not the Kiernans should be granted the variance – they later approved that unanimously – but rather what sort of message the council was sending.
Councilmember Tony Alongi pointed back to a similar variance request the council debated back in May. Another resident wanted to build an addition to his house as well as a new attached garage. In that case, the planning commission and staff agreed that the resident could build within existing setback requirements, even though the resident argued otherwise. The council discussed that request at length and ultimately denied the variance request.
The question was, what was the difference between the two? Councilmember Tony Nelson said that in the May request, there seemed to be more options for the homeowner, whereas the particular situation and layout of the Kiernan property made other options practically impossible, unless the council told the Kiernans they couldn’t build the garage they wanted.
Councilmember Joe Balsanek expressed frustration at the council’s decision to grant one variance but not the other.
“I’m just flabbergasted,” he said.
He later suggested that the council should set a standard in place for determining whether or not a variance is necessary.
Councilmember Mike Slavik closed the issue by noting that the issue has come up twice now, and that it seems best taken on by the planning commission and staff for more discussion.