Commission OKs protested variance

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Juneau Planning Commission has granted a variance for a condominium complex roof that a neighbor says was built with improper approval and now blocks his view.

At issue is a pitched roof on Highland Terrace Condominiums, 350 Irwin St., which was constructed by Design North in Douglas.

Joel Casto, who lives behind Highland Terrace at Westridge Condominiums, says the new roof now blocks his view of the channel and downtown area below. The blocked view affects the value of his property, he said.

"It may not be much, but what I lost was the view of Douglas, the lights and so forth," Casto said.

The applicant, Design North Inc., seeks the variance because the roof exceeds the city building height limit of 35 feet. The roof makes the building 37.5 feet, according to the city.

Design North submitted a design and the city awarded a building permit in July. Meanwhile, Casto said the building exceeded the height limit. The city visited the site and determined Design North's drawings were not accurate. However, Design North already had most of the project completed.

Design North Vice President Ron Haffner said the company submitted the drawing and relied on the city's approval. When the city issued a building permit, the compan began construction.

Haffner said the new roof improved the neighborhood and value of nearby property.

Regardless, determining the height of the building was confusing, city officials said. The city says the building, with the new roof, is 37.5 feet, but R&M Engineering of Juneau found the building to be 41 feet. Casto hired R&M to review the city's work.

Casto began inquiring about the project since April and says his comments were ignored. He faulted the city building process.

"There was a failure of the public process and weaknesses in the code and description of the process," said commissioner Johan Dybdahl. "We have to close those gaps so we don't lose that public process and people don't lose faith in that process."

Haffner said the pitched roof was necessary to resolve long-term leakage problems at the complex. Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek argued Design North could have fixed a flat roof.

The vote was 6-2 Tuesday with Kendziorek and Jacqueline Fowler voting no. Mark Pusich was absent.

Tracey Ricker, the manager for both condominium complexes, agreed with Casto that the building process failed.

Afterward, Casto said he was going to talk to Ricker about appealing the decision to the Juneau Assembly.

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