Town of Oro Valley
Courtesy photo

The Oro Valley Board of Adjustments voted on Tuesday afternoon in support of two variance requests, giving the applicants of each request the ability to operate outside the normal guidelines of the town’s zoning code.

That proved quite the relief for town residents Jennifer Bramble and her husband, who asked the board for a reduction in their rear yard setback. The request was first brought to the board in May.

Approved in 3-1 vote, the variance will allow the Brambles to reduce the yard setback from 10 feet to zero feet for a 12-foot by 24-foot patio cover, and from five feet to zero feet for an above ground spa.

Prior to board approval, the town’s Senior Planning Technician, Patty Hayes, on behalf of staff, requested denial, in the agenda report arguing that allowing the variance would “grant special privileges to the applicant when compared to other properties in the subdivision” because like other residences, the home is already equipped with a recessed patio cover.

But the majority of board members felt differently, arguing the Brambles had a unique set of circumstances given, among other factors, their smaller-than-average lot size.

The Brambles’ residence is one of nine homes in the River’s Edge II neighborhood that sits on a 5,100-square-foot lot, as compared to the average 5,500-square-foot lot.

Board Chairman Bill Adler argued in this particular case, the zoning code is too restrictive.

“I think it’s wrong of our zoning code to place restrictions on smaller lots that preempt any – even minor alterations to the home – which in this case is the fact,” he said.

Other considerations prompting board support were the fact the yard does not back up to any neighbors, the southwest-facing home is subject to harsh sun exposure, and the home sits at the peak of a cul-de-sac, which limits rear yard space to 12 feet deep.

All residents within 300 feet of the Brambles home were notified of the variance request.

Two showed up to speak against allowing it.

“In the history of Oro Valley, there has only been one house that has ever been granted a zero-foot setback,” said one resident, who suggested the variance could potentially devalue area property values.

Prior to the board meeting, the Brambles received approval from their homeowner’s association for the exceptions.

When it came to a vote, board member Michael Shoeppach was the lone dissenter. He felt the first of the five criteria required to grant a variance was not met.

That condition reads:

“That there are special circumstances or conditions applying to the property referred to in the application including its size, shape, topography, location or surroundings which do not apply to other properties in the district.”

In another item, the board approved a grading variance to allow developers with Meritage Homes to build into a hillside slope at a 12 percent grade, two percent higher than normal.

The grading would encroach into 4,100 square-feet of protected hillside.

The developers said multiple attempts were made to configure the home’s blueprints in a way that would not encroach the hillside beyond zoning code allowance, but those attempts were unsuccessful, largely due to the fact a wash runs near the house and limits building space.

The variance was approved 3-1, with board member Helen Dankworth dissenting.

The final request, which would have allowed a three-foot building height increase to a residence along N. Pistachio Avenue was unanimously denied after multiple residents expressed concerns their mountain views would be impeded.

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