Owner wants permit for fireplace

A Newport Beach homeowner's modification permit is up for discussion at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The name might sound familiar to fans of Italian fare.

When Antonio Cagnolo, owner of Antonello Ristorante at South Coast Village, recently built a covered patio area and an outdoor fireplace in the backyard of his Cliff Drive home, the fireplace did not comply with city zoning codes. He's applying for the permit to allow it to stay on the property.

Newport Beach Planning Director James Campbell said the entire patio structure was initially debated, but Cagnolo agreed to reconstruct it in a conforming fashion, therefore the only structure needing relief is the fireplace because it was built on the setback — the land that edges up against the property line and is not allowed to be developed.

Another issue is the height. The fireplace is 14 feet tall, which is 8 feet taller than what the interim zoning code allows. The code, which is being updated, stipulates that the fireplace can be no higher than 6 feet above natural grade.

Campbell said the height isn't what concerns the city.

"It's really the location of the fireplace," he said. "It's not allowed in the setback area."

Even if the future zoning code didn't allow the height, once OK'd, Cagnolo would be good to go.

"Once it's approved, it's approved," Campbell said.

Cagnolo must address three requirements to appeal for a modification permit, Campbell said.

The first is proving that there are practical difficulties associated with the property and that by abiding strictly to zoning code, Cagnolo will undergo physical hardship.

The second requirement is compatibility with the neighborhood. The third is that it is not detrimental to the neighborhood.

Bror Monberg of Bror Monberg Architects, which drafted the drawings of the fireplace, said the Cagnolo property has faced various hardships with his backyard due to the disadvantageous topography of his land.

"In Antonio's case, the existing hardship was that the whole corner of his yard was unusable and he wanted to develop it," the Newport Beach-based architect said.

In 1995, Cagnolo applied for modification permits so he could build a deck. He was granted those permits.

"The original intent of the modification was to allow him to use that deck portion of property as anyone else would be able to," Monberg said.

Monberg contends that the current situation — the fireplace in the setback — is due to similar circumstances.Cagnolo is seeking to develop a yard, like any homeowner should able to, but many parts of his yard are unusable.

Setbacks are created by the Planning Department and exist to prevent overbuilding or intrusion with structures backing up too closely to neighboring properties.

"It provides as a buffer to people next door," Monberg said.

However, even though the fireplace does encroach on the setback, Monberg believes an exception can be made because it isn't a cumbersome structure, like a building.

Also, he contends, his neighbors would not be affected. Two of the sides back up to a park and undeveloped land, and the only property adjacent to Cagnolo's has a significantly higher property line, thus they're not on the same level.

"We're going to see if we can come to a compromise," Cagnolo said. "It's not really disturbing anybody. My neighbor is about 15 feet above me."

Monberg said scenarios like these aren't foreign in the coastal community.

"The reality is that many properties are hard to develop in Newport Beach," he said. "To give people the same shake, the same opportunity as other homeowners, you really have to seek modification permits. It's not on the fault of the homeowner."

A public hearing on Cagnolo's permit application is set for during Tuesday's open council session, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 3300 Newport Blvd.

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