The City Plan Commission heard an appeal Dec. 10 from a Hollywood/Santa Monica couple of a decision made by the planning department director that the couple had violated the Hollywood/Santa Monica Conservation District regulations.

The couple had repaved their driveway with a non-conforming (in this case, asphalt) surface after their existing driveway required repair. In researching the case, City staff discovered the homeowners were told by the building inspection department that they did not need a permit to repave their driveway with asphalt.

Naturally, they proceeded with the work and then were surprised to discover they had violated the district’s regulations.

Because they had made a good-faith effort to comply with the regulations, the Plan Commission and neighborhood were sympathetic, with the commission voting unanimously to uphold the homeowners’ appeal.

Neighborhood representatives made clear, however, that this decision should not be viewed as “open season” on Conservation District regulations for those who, in fact, are well aware or should be well aware of what is required.

Neighborhood representatives distributed examples of information that have been distributed to make all area residents aware of the Conservation District and its regulations.

Also, City staff is expected in January to propose amendments to the regulations directing future appeals to the Board of Adjustment, which is more in line with that group’s quasi-judicial functions rather than the more zoning-oriented and politicized Plan Commission.

Future columns will provide further information as these issues are made public.

CAR WASH CONTROVERSY: The zoning case involving a car wash at Reiger and Collett, in the Munger Place Historic District area, has been scheduled for Council consideration Jan. 13. This issue was the subject of controversy among the Historic District Association, the property owner and other residents and business owners.

The Plan Commission approved the car wash’s request to amend the PD to make the car wash a permitted use on the site, which otherwise would have called only for single-family residential uses. But discussions to resolve the dispute have continued among all interested parties.

Many believe it may be possible to reach a mutually agreeable compromise before the case actually goes to the Council. Compromises could include operating hours and the length of time the car wash could continue to operate – for example, a period of several years.

A compromise would permit the property owner to obtain additional economic value from the business but would also let the neighborhood know that the use would eventually cease and the underlying residential zoning would not have to change.

GASTON AVENUE PD: The Plan Commission will take up a request Jan. 7 to amend the Gaston Avenue PD (PD District 362), located in Old East Dallas on both sides of Gaston Avenue between Fitzhugh and Carroll. The request involves allowing a group residential facility in one or more sub-areas of the district.

The district was adopted in January 1992 to preserve historic residential and commercial structures along this stretch of Gaston. City staff has been working with interested people in the area, as well as the owner and proposed facility operator, to ensure the use will be compatible with the neighborhood.

As previously reported, the facility will be a residential facility for up to 12 boys who have passed through the juvenile justice system. The boys will receive counseling with their families and attend local public schools. An administrator and four counselors would be on-site, and the facility would be licensed by the Texas Youth Commission.

The Pitre Vision Home, as it would be called, also will have an advisory board of about a dozen members, including people willing to work with the residents and serve as role models. No vocal neighborhood opposition has surfaced, although it is possible some will surface prior to the Plan Commission hearing.

We’ll provide an update on the case next month.

DRY OVERLAY UPDATE: The East Dallas dry overlay proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Plan Commission Jan. 21. But the Texas Supreme Court is taking an extraordinarily long time to render a decision on the litigation involving the South Dallas/Fair Park dry overlay, so it is likely the East Dallas proposal will be postponed yet again, along with a similar Oak Cliff proposal, until early spring.

As previously reported, City staff and the Plan Commission have taken the position that until the Texas Supreme Court rules on the City’s ability to use its zoning power to regulate state-licensed, alcohol-related businesses, there is little point in going forward with other proposed dry overlays.

Of course, this also will affect the dry overlay under discussion for the Samuell Boulevard area. Further developments will be reported as they occur.

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