Northland News

Variance OK will spare homeowner jail sentence

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The victim said she's the one who was sentenced to jail.

A woman who lives on Ashley Drive told the Northland Community Council's development committee last week that a deck she had built on her home led to a host of legal problems she never anticipated.

"Who knew?" Cheryl L. Moland said.

After going over the information she submitted, committee members unanimously sided with Moland, Chairman Dave Paul said.

"Once we understood what was being discussed ... it was actually pretty simple," he said.

Moland's legal woes initially stemmed from hiring some friends to build a deck onto the sunroom of her new home, which sits on a corner. They didn't obtain a permit for the project, and a building inspector stopped the work and cited her, Moland said.

It also was determined the deck is too close to the road.

This took place in August 2012, according to online Franklin County Municipal Court records.

The citation brought to light the fact that the sunroom had been constructed by a previous owner of the house who completed that work without obtaining a permit, Moland said. In order to avoid having to tear down the illegal addition, the first-time homeowner told committee members she had to provide city officials and eventually a judge with proof that the room was structurally sound.

After failing to find an architect willing to take on the task -- and because of that, missing some deadlines imposed by the court -- Moland said she finally got the help of a structural engineer, but he, too, failed to get his report to her on time. She was sentenced to 15 days behind bars for apparently failing to take any action on the citation.

"This has turned into a big mess," Moland said.

By applying for a variance regarding the completed deck's proximity to the public right of way, she said she is hoping to be spared serving her sentence.

Moland shared a Sept. 5 email from a city official with development committee members that said she needed a variance from the required setback for the deck of 25 feet to 19 feet, 6 inches, although her application states 15 feet, 6 inches.

"You have more problems to deal with in the building permit issue than the variance," committee Vice Chairman William Logan pointed out.

"It's just my complete misunderstanding of what was going on," Moland said.

The committee voted, without dissent, to approve the variance of 19 feet, 6 inches, according to Paul.

"I guess you could say the applicant was the victim in that the situation she was seeking the variance from predated her ownership," he said. "Our action paves the way for her to deal with the problem she's having with the court."

In addition to the possible jail sentence, Moland was fined $500 and ordered to pay $131 in court costs, according to the court records, which also said $3 of the court costs were dismissed.

In the only other case on last week's monthly agenda, the development committee again chose to recommend disapproval of a graphics plan proposed for a loan business at 5720 Cleveland Ave.

In August, Mike Davis of Kessler Sign Co., representing Loan Max, asked for a graphics plan that would have permitted rooftop signs for the business on the north, south and west sides of the building, which faces Cleveland Avenue.

That was rejected unanimously.

This time, he sought to have the 37-square-foot sign on the front of the building eliminated in favor of two 32-square-foot signs on either side.

The graphics code generally limits signs to being above the public entrance to a business, which this would have violated, according to Paul.

The vote to recommend disapproval of this iteration of the graphics plan was once again unanimous.

"They didn't think the compromise was appropriate," Paul said. "We really didn't think this last alternative served well the interests of the applicant."

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