Valley Crest ruling appealed

In a public hearing held Aug. 16, resident Sunny Asch returned to appeal a Public Works Dept. staff decision requesting her to remove new improvements to her property that breach public right-of-way at the corner of Princess Anne Road and Valley Crest Street.

Following a fire in 2006 caused by a felled power line that scorched the bushes around her home, Asch proceeded with a series of small construction projects to her property to fix the damages. Among the landscape improvements, she recently added a new masonry mailbox, staircase and lighted pillars.

Shortly after the completion of these improvements, she learned that they were subject to contention. Complaints were filed by neighbors that the mailbox obstructed vision. Upon further review by staff, it was also found that the bottom of the new staircase entered the public right-of-way, and that the pillars at the foot of the staircase were built above the maximum allowed height within the “corner sight visibility triangle.”

The two parties, however, quickly reached a compromise on the issues presented.

“I went in every direction to try to see how the structure blocks vision and I couldn't find any sight infringement whatsoever,” said Commissioner Terry Walker.

Asch, at the time of the meeting, had already removed the masonry mailbox. In addition, as soon as the hearing began, she offered to both remove the bottom pillar sitting in public right-of-way and shorten the remaining pillar to meet accepted height restrictions. Her only request was for a temporary encroachment permit for the staircase.

The encroachment problem stems from the two adjoining streets' disparity in right-of-ways. Princess Anne Road has a right-of-way width of 40 feet while Valley Crest Street has a right-of-way width of 54 feet. Both have a curb-to-curb roadway width of 30 feet. Thus, while the staircase in question does meet the five-foot setback requirement for Princess Anne Road it did not meet the 12-foot requirement for Valley Crest Street. Asch was not aware of this large disparity.

“I was under the impression that because the landing of the stair met the five-foot setback that it was OK,” said Asch.

The Public Works Commission understood the confusion, and ultimately approved the issuance of a temporary encroachment permit, reversing staff's decision.

Although the public hearing went smoothly, the commission warns that Asch's case is just one small example of a continuing problem regarding contractors neglecting proper protocol listed by the city.

“What really bothers me is that we have an experienced licensed contractor that did not apply to the city for a permit,” said Vice-Chairman Allen Koblin. “This is a common issue and it's the homeowner that ends up paying the price.”

The commission moved to further investigate solutions to this problem in future meetings.

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