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Porch on builder's house doesn't meet city's new standards

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Keith Knight of GFK Builders is in a pickle.
He has built a house at the entrance to the Saddlebrook subdivision, but the width of the porch doesn’t meet the standards of Salisbury’s new Land Development Ordinance.
Knight sought a variance to allow the porch, which is 2 feet short of the 8-foot width required, but the Zoning Board of Adjustment turned him down Monday.
“It would just be a shame to have to take it (the porch) off,” Knight said. “… Two feet, I didn’t think that was too much to ask.”
But Zoning Board members said Knight knew from the beginning that the porch’s width should be at least 8 feet, not the 6 feet called for in his design.
Wayne Saleeby, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, told Knight he would either have to add the 2 feet needed or tear down the porch.
Dee Dee Wright, also a Zoning Board member, said the hardship created was not because of the ordinance. Kim Davis recognized that a remedy would be expensive, but she said Knight knew throughout the construction that the porch was not wide enough.
Knight said he had presented his design with the current porch to a seven-member committee of the Saddlebrook homeowners association, and it was approved. He added that many of the homes in Saddlebrook, located off Jake Alexander Boulevard, don’t have porches, or if they do, the porches don’t meet the standards in the new Land Development Ordinance.
He argued that the Land Development Ordinance was written for new subdivisions not infill lots, which is what he had to build on. Knight said he built the house straight from an online plan and that its look would change for the worse if it had to be re-engineered.
He added that the house, as built, is something Salisbury could be proud of, and it occupies a lot which had been vacant for a long time.
Knight said he thinks the Land Development Ordinance was written for houses to look like the one he has built.
Zoning Administrator David Phillips said the Land Development Ordinance gives a builder the option of having a front porch or not. If a front porch is built, it must take up at least 40 percent of the front facade, which this porch does, Phillips said.
But it also must be at least 8 feet wide.
The porch’s width at the front door inset is 9 feet, 3 inches. On the side, it’s 10 feet, 3 inches. But in the middle, the width is only 6 feet between the porch railings and a front window.
Phillips said the original zoning permit was issued for this house at 3100 Arabian Lane based on a design that did not include a front porch.
But when the foundation was laid, Phillips noted that it included a front porch that was 6 feet wide in that one section.
No attempt was made during construction to bring the porch into compliance, Phillips said. The county building inspector was instructed not to issue a certificate of occupancy, leading to Knight’s request for a variance.
Knight acknowledged Monday he knew the porch was out of compliance, but he said City Councilman Mark Lewis told him that while the porch didn’t satisfy the letter of the law, it seemed to meet the intent of the Land Development Ordinance.
Lewis, who was closely involved in the writing of the ordinance, said Knight was one of three builders who came to him with concerns about its requirements. Lewis, a banker, said he had some general discussions and made inquiries with the planning staff, but he quickly removed himself from the process because he was serving as Knight’s lender.
Lewis said he felt “extremely uncomfortable” and never wanted to use his position as a councilman to exert any influence in the enforcement of the ordinance. He made sure to extract himself from the situation, Lewis said.
Knight confirmed that Lewis “told me he was out of the loop.” By the time Knight realized that Lewis could not help, the construction was too far along, he said, and seeking a variance became the next option.

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