Wendell leaders give property owner gift of time

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comSeptember 3, 2013 

— A local property owner got a 30-day reprieve from the town’s Board of Adjustment Wednesday night that will allow him to prepare a plan to undo problems created when he began putting additions on a garage he owns without the proper permits.

Glenn Strickland, of 764 Lake Glad Road, will then have six months to implement those plans or face fines of as much as $100 per day.

Strickland got the extra time after he appealed a decision by the town’s zoning administrator that found the wings he was putting on a garage behind his house were being built without building permits.

Once Wake County building inspectors discovered the improper construction in 2011, they ordered Strickland to stop the work and acquire the necessary permits.

But when he applied for those permits, it was discovered that the additions couldn’t be constructed as planned under the terms of the town’s development rules.

Following a directive from the town that he could combine neighboring lots to make a single, larger lot, Strickland did that with land he owned adjacent to the property where his home and the garage are located.

But then town officials discovered that where the building is located it would be too close to the property’s back line to meet the town’s standards.

On July 1, the town of Wendell sent Strickland a letter explaining that his building was still out of compliance and that the town would begin fining him on July 14.

That letter prompted Strickland to see relief from the Board of Adjustment.

During Wednesday night’s 90-minute meeting, Town Planner David Bergmark explained the timeline of events that led to the July 1 letter and how the property is in violation of the town’s rules.

‘We asked for an explanation’

Andy Gay, an attorney representing Strickland, admitted that the building was in violation of the ordinance, but he said his client had been taking steps recommended by the town to rectify the problem.

“When we got the letter denying our rezoning request, we asked for an explanation why. We never got one. Then on July 1 we got this warning letter,” Gay said.

Gay also said Strickland has other options available to him, including buying land behind his property that would bring the property into compliance with certain rules regarding how far off a property line a building may be constructed.

By acquiring additional property, the garage would be further from the new property line and would meet the town’s standards.

Strickland would also have to redesign the front of the garage to make it look more like a dwelling than a garage.

Wendell town attorney Jim Cauley said the town would be receptive to any steps Strickland takes to meet the town’s rules, but he said the case has dragged on long enough that the town wants to resolve the matter once and for all.

“We just want to get it over with,” Cauley said.

Sympathetic audience

Board of Adjustment members were sympathetic with Strickland’s problem, but they noted that if he had gotten the building permits before he started construction he could have avoided a spat with the town.

Board member Art Whittington said he visited the site prior to Wednesday night’s meeting.

“It doesn’t look bad. In fact, it looks quite nice out there,” Whittington said. “I don’t think our goal is to penalize somebody for that.”

Board member Curt Phipps agreed, joining a chorus of people over the past several years who have said the town’s Unified Development Ordinance is a work in progress.

“The UDO is largely about residential development. That’s not what this is. This property is clearly out in the country. We’ve been making changes to (the UDO) regularly and this might be something we look at and go back and change,” Phipps said.

Whitfield: 919-829-4823

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