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City Council votes to allow secondary dwelling on property

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Salisbury City Council voted Tuesday to allow the construction of a secondary dwelling at the rear of a house at 702 Mitchell Ave.
Marsha Wood said she wanted to build the two-story, 1,200-square-foot home so she could be close to her daughter, son-in-law and their three children.
The secondary home will face Boyden Street.
Her daughter’s family intends to buy the house at 702 Mitchell Ave., if Wood were allowed the smaller house in the back. Wood and her daughter’s family live near China Grove now.
Jane Nussman, who owns the property for sale and also lives next door, told council she has known the family over three different generations.
“They’re fine folks, and they are going to be great assets to the neighborhood,” Nussman said. “… I think it will be a positive in every way.”
But Steve Thomas, of 1208 Boyden St., lodged strong objections to the council’s approval of a special-use permit to allow the secondary dwelling.
He said he had nothing personal against Wood, only that he was trying to defend the integrity of his single-family residential neighborhood.
In the lower section of Fulton Heights where he lives, Thomas said, there is more distance between houses than there is in the sections closer to Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
More specific, Thomas said, the proposed secondary home would be built right next to his own home’s screened-in porch, which is his family’s favorite gathering spot. It would directly affect his “viewshed,” Thomas said.
The screened-in porch was a reason he bought his house. Thomas also expressed concern that Wood’s secondary dwelling could become a rental property someday.
The Land Development Ordinance requires only a 5-foot setback from the property line for a secondary dwelling, and Wood’s home was proposed to be within 5 feet of Thomas’ screened-in porch.
Thomas’ porch was built years ago right on the property line.
Councilman Bill Burgin, one of the authors of the city’s Land Development Ordinance, said a specific section was included to allow for these kinds of secondary dwellings so grandparents could be close to their families and sometimes help with their grandchildren.
“I’m in favor of finding a way to make this work,” Burgin said.
Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson said the Land Development Ordinance also required a special-use permit so these kinds of matters could be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Woodson said he personally thought having only a 5-foot setback from Thomas’ porch was too close. He would prefer a 15-foot setback that included some kind of buffer, Woodson said.
“I think it’s a little bit tight, a little bit close right now,” Woodson said.
Burgin said that it was unusual that Thomas’ porch was on the property line. It was allowed under a grandfather clause when the city approved zoning years ago. Usually some kind of setback on Thomas’ side would be built in.
Burgin suggested ó and other council members agreed ó that there should be at least a 10-foot setback of Wood’s proposed home from Thomas’ porch.
Council also is requiring that Wood provide a 6-foot-wide buffer between the side of the new house and Thomas’ property. It could be plantings, a privacy fence or a combination of both.
Thomas had asked for at least a 15-foot separation from his porch and “a complete visual buffer” within three years of the house’s construction.
Overall, Wood’s proposal met all the criteria ó eight different requirements ó for a secondary dwelling.
A secondary dwelling may not be larger than 50 percent of the gross floor area of the principal house. And the maximum building footprint cannot be more than 750 square feet.
The principal house at 702 Mitchell Ave. is 3,626 square feet, so the maximum size allowed for Wood’s house would be 1,813 square feet ó well above the 1,200 square feet Wood has planned.
Her building footprint is 748 square feet, just within the 750-square-foot maximum.
The Planning Board had recommended to council that the special-use permit be approved.

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