A rare instance of Clintonville Area Commission members voting contrary to the recommendations of the zoning and variance committee in March led to a protracted and occasionally heated discussion during the commission's April 4 meeting.

Unhappy that six of her colleagues March 7 had backed a West Dominion Boulevard homeowner's request to build a four-car garage, District 4 representative Judy Minister sent city officials her own views on the matter in what she termed a "minority report."

That prompted District 8's Christopher Allwein, who last week announced he had accepted a job out of town and would resign from the advisory panel, to object to any communication going out as being officially from the commission without all the members having an opportunity to review it.

"If it is part of the official variance procedure to do this, all commissioners should have a right to see anything added to an approval and any information/editorial comments that accompany it, prior to it being submitted," he wrote in a March 29 email. "And the person(s) that submitted it should feel obligated to share it."

"I think it's reasonable to say, can we see it before we submit it?" Allwein asked April 4.

Minister defended her action, citing a provision in the bylaws for the inclusion of minority reports.

Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt said she confirmed that with the city attorney's office.

In the discussion that ensued April 4, B.J. White of District 9 questioned the wisdom of having zoning and variance committee meetings taking place only two days before commission members vote on that panel's recommendations.

"Forty-eight hours is not cutting it," she said. "We need to at least have time to process the information."

"I don't know how that would make this body more capable of making a decision," said Dana Bagwell of District 5, noting that commission members have two to four weeks between the time a variance application is filed and when it comes up at a regular meeting.

David Vottero of District 1 suggested that the full CAC should consider delaying a vote on variance and zoning cases in which committee members advised ruling against the application.

"Most of the time we're here to say 'yes,' " Vottero said.

The discussion turned acrimonious for a time, with Minister suggesting the applicant who asked for permission to build the four-car garage instance -- which Vottero termed "possibly the ugliest garage in the history of the universe" -- knew some commission members.

Wetherholt countered that Minister's comments "show mistrust within the commission."

"When things aren't transparent, that's where mistrust comes from," Minister replied.

Randy Ketcham, who is not running for another CAC term next month, said he only met the applicant, Kendra Carpenter, the evening of the committee meeting, when she approached him to express interest in running for his seat.

Carpenter was certified as a candidate for that seat by elections committee Chairman Ann Henkener.

She will run against Mary B. Relotto when the election takes place May 4.

In District 8, where Allwein previously indicated he would not be a candidate, voters will choose between James Garrison and Ty Hulbert.

Incumbent District 3 representative Wetherholt is unopposed.

In the end, consideration of changing the zoning and variance committee meeting schedule was put off to the May meeting.

Also at the April 4 session, commission members recommended approval of variances that will allow two homes on East California Avenue to be sold as homes, in spite of the properties having been rezoned commercial more than 60 years ago.

Attorney Jackson B. Reynolds III appeared on behalf of the owners of those two houses, as well as the nearby former funeral home they are transforming into a day-care center.

Owners Courtney and Rob Lewis don't want to be in the business of renting those houses, Reynolds said, but they can't sell them as single-family dwellings without variances to permit people to live on the first floor of property zoned for commercial purposes.

The vote to recommend approval of the necessary variances was 8-0, with John Eschenbrenner of District 7 abstaining.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

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