Blythewood BZA denies Taco Bell variance

BLYTHEWOOD – Plans for a Taco Bell with a drive-thru to come to Blythewood Road were doused Monday evening when the Blythewood Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) denied the company a variance request to enlarge the usable area of the property the fast food restaurant proposed to build on.

The applicant, BWL Holdings, LLC, represented by Cason Development Group, requested a variance to reduce the necessary buffer transition yard on each side of a lot located at 209 Blythewood Road in the Town Center across from the Waffle House.

Because the 130 foot x 220 foot property is not wide enough to accommodate the building and a drive thru lane, the variance was requested to reduce the buffer transition yard on the western side of the lot to 3.4 feet and on the eastern side to four feet.

The Town requires a buffer between adjoining commercially zoned lots in the Town Center District to be a minimum of 10 feet in width, or 7 feet if a wall, fence or berm is used between adjoining properties on both sides and to the rear.

For a variance to be granted, according to Town ordinance all of the following findings and conclusions in a written order:

(a)  There are extraordinary and exceptional conditions pertaining to a particular piece of property;

(b) These conditions do not generally apply to other property in the vicinity;

(c)  Because of these conditions, the application of the chapter to a particular piece of property would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict utilization of the property;

(d)  The authorization of the variance will not be a substantial detriment to adjacent property or to public good, and the character of the district will not be harmed by the granting of the variance; and

(e) The effect of the variance would not allow the establishment of a use not otherwise permitted in the zoning district; would not extend physically a nonconforming use of the land; would not change the zoning district boundaries shown on the official zoning map.

Cason spoke on behalf of granting the variance indicating they had to “skinny up the site plan” due to the dimensions of the site.  One of his suggestions to enhance the narrow buffer zone was a ‘living fence.’  He had some examples to share of hedge plantings used to create borders.

“This will most likely come back up again,” Darren Rhodes, with Coldwell Banker and the realtor for the sale of the property, said. “It is a unique challenge to fit something on that site,” he told the BZA members.

Marie Berry said she is a co-owner of the property and represents the other three owners, all of whom she said were longtime residents of Blythewood.

“It would be an attractive addition to the community and economic development for the community,” Berry said.

Shelia Finkel, who along with her husband own the dental practice located on the property adjoining the east side of the site, reminded the Board that any decision they make now will come up again.

“Whatever decision you make will be for all of the town,” she said.

Stan Harpe, who said he owned the parcel to the west of the property, said the site was too small for the use.

“I went through the zoning process before trying to get Walgreens,” Harpe said.

After closing the public hearing, BZA Chair Pat Littlejohn read each of the five findings required to be met for a variance to be granted.

“There are lots of narrow lots, and shoehorning in this sets a precedent. This would be over-reach,” Board member Ray Fantone said.  He asked Cason if the variance requester had tried to purchase land from the properties on either side.

“Yes, they have not been able to get land from either side,” Cason said.

Board member Derreck Pugh commented “that the variance brought up the same issues and they should keep in mind what the Town did before.”

“What if the live fence dies?  What will we be looking at?” Board member Sharron Pickle asked.

Board member Marlon Hinds also had some concern about the fence and questioned what if it would change down the line.

“I don’t feel this is a special case. Not unique,” Hinds said.

Hinds made a motion to deny the request for a variance to reduce the buffer transition yards between adjoining commercially zoned lots at 209 Blythewood Road for a proposed commercial use. The motion was seconded by Fantone and the Board voted unanimously to deny the request.

Board member Tom Utroska was not present.

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