Developer Blasts BZA

BLYTHEWOOD (Jan. 14, 2016) – Harold Pickrel, the developer of Blythecreek subdivision on Boney Road, took rejection badly Monday night after the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), on a 2-2 vote, turned down his request for a variance that would have allowed him to build nine homes 10 feet closer to the street.

“You can all go to Hell!” Pickrel told the Board as he stormed out of the meeting room, loudly slamming the front door as he left The Manor.

Before leaving, Pickrel spewed out several expletives, telling Board members, “You’ll see me in court. You gave people in Cobblestone variances and you shot mine down. If that’s a fact, I’m suing you.”

Earlier in the meeting, Pickrel told the Board he purchased the property in 2005 but has since sold all but 19 of the lots in the development to residential developer D.R. Horton. Pickrel said Horton requested the variance on the remaining lots because the topography of the property, which is located on Boney Road adjacent to Oakhurst subdivision, is challenged with drop-offs up to 20 feet on the back side of some the lots.

He applied to the BZA for a variance to reduce the required 25-foot front setback to 15 feet. If he had to meet setback requirements, the homes would have no back yards because of the drop-offs or he would have to cut away more trees on the back of the lots to accommodate the houses, Pickrel said.

Board Chairwoman Sabra Mazyck told Pickrel that the Board had to follow five criteria set out in the state statute for granting a variance. She said she did not feel his request met all those criteria.

Reading from the statute, she told the Board, “The fact that property may be utilized more profitably, should a variance be granted, may not be considered grounds for a variance.”

“I promise you,” Pickrel said, “there is no profit in Blythecreek. It’s about leaving the trees.”

He later said that it would be cost prohibitive to build up the drop-offs.

While Board members Ray Fantone and Pat Littlejohn agreed with Pickrel that the drop-off at the back of the lots constituted extraordinary and exceptional conditions (one of the five criteria) for building homes, Board member Ron Friday blamed Pickrel for the predicament he found himself in.

“When you laid out these lots you knew what you were faced with, the topography, the lots,” Friday told Pickrel. “When I first looked at this, I said ‘This is about the drop-off at the back of the lot.’ When you laid this out, all these factors (trees, drop-off) should have come into play.”

“If we can’t get a variance,” Pickrel told the Board, “then the lots can’t be built on. At some point you can’t build a $100,000 retainer wall on a $22,000 lot. That renders it unbuildable. We’d have to build a much smaller home to fit the lot. “

In an attempt to make his case, Pickrel said, “I’ve built out over 30,000 lots and we’re granted variances all the time. Builders sometimes build over the line. There are things you have to do.”

“We can’t just say OK, go on and do that ,” Mazyck told Pickrel. “We have to follow the rules set before us. We can’t just give it to you. We have to follow the law.”

After the tie vote rendered a failed motion for the variance, Pickrel told the Board, “You just killed the neighborhood. That’s idiotic what you just did.”

Because the BZA is a quasi-judicial board, appeals of its decisions must be made to Circuit Court.