After seven months of public and private arguing and 10 postponed votes by the Zoning and Planning Committee, the owners of a disputed house under construction at Lake of the Isles got a favorable vote.
The issue may be settled at City Hall next week when the full City Council votes on the matter, but the fight also might be moving across the street to the Hennepin County Courthouse.
It all started last spring before any concrete was poured. Next-door neighbors noticed that the outlines for the new construction at 2380 W. Lakes of the Isles Parkway would block their own view of the lake. They complained to the new owners and the city.
“One of the things that became clear to me was that this is a corner lot,” said Steven Poor, zoning administrator. The definition of a corner lot is one that faces two streets.
The new construction sits on West Lake of the Isles where the road curves into Kenwood Parkway, which the city contends is a corner because the property faces two streets.
The rules for setback on a corner lot do not require the usual “string test” that’s applied when houses all face the same street. The string test requires that new construction cannot be forward of a line connecting the front of the two neighboring houses.
If the new construction is deemed not to be on a corner lot, its siting would be 10 feet in front of the required line between the houses on both sides.
The city hired a third party to investigate the situation and an outside surveyor to determine if or where a corner might exist.
At one point last summer, the neighbor, Steven Wells, said his case would live or die on the surveyor’s determination of the exact location of the “corner.”
Earlier this month, the surveyor study (PDF) was completed and forwarded to the city and to Wells, but the report has not resolved the situation.
City staff say (PDF) they have been proven correct that there is a corner and that the new house faces two streets.
Wells does not agree.
The surveyor located the centerline of Kenwood Parkway but found that the centerline of West Lake of the Isles is on the boulevard, instead of in the street. The crossing of centerlines is apparently where the corner exists between one street and another.
Despite that, the surveyor has declared there to be a corner and the lot in question to be a corner lot.
“This is not really a survey as I understand what has been done,” said Wells, who produced an aerial photo of the street showing the location of the previous house on the lot and another of the lot with the new construction.
“You no longer have the sweep of the street,” he said, indicating that all of the homes, prior to the new construction, sat back about the same distance from the curb. “Now you have these two structures jutting out,” he added pointing to the new construction.
“This house is entirely on Kenwood Parkway, it’s not on a corner,” Wells told committee members, adding, “It’s been allowed to act like it’s a corner.”
Committee members admitted some confusion. The surveyor appears to back up the city contention that a corner exists and that the setback for the new construction is correct.
“It doesn’t rise or fall on this one document,” said Erik Nilsson, a City Attorney’s Office staffer who advised council members to consider all available information.
Council Member Lisa Goodman, who represents residents of the area, voted “no,. while all others supported the decision of the zoning staff.
For his part, Wells said he will wait to see what the full council does next week.
“We can challenge this is court,” he said.